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Taming Hurricanes With Wind Turbines

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 7:35 PM GMT on December 13, 2013

How can one significantly reduce the winds of nature’s most destructive storms, and at the same time provide up to half of the world’s electric power? The answer, according to Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department, is to install massive arrays of tens of thousands of offshore wind turbines, which can extract wind energy from hurricanes and dramatically reduce their winds and storm surges. I’m in San Francisco this week for the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the world’s largest climate science conference, where Dr. Jacobson presented a talk titled, “Taming hurricanes with arrays of offshore wind turbines that simultaneously reduce global warming and air pollution and provide normal electric power.” Using a 3-D global atmospheric computer model with finer-scale meshes zoomed in along the U.S. coast, he ran simulations of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, and studied how an array of 70,000 wind turbines that generate 300 Gigawatts of power placed along the coast might impact these storms. The simulations showed that as the outer winds of these hurricanes moved over the wind turbines, they extracted enough energy from the storms to reduce the winds by 50%, and increase the central pressure by 16 mb. A decrease in the storm surge of 6 - 72% occurred as a result.


Figure 1. The wind speeds at 15 meters above the surface as simulated at 10 am EDT August 29, 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. Left: Katrina’s winds without an off-shore wind turbine array of 70,000 units present (7.58-MW Enercon E-126 turbines spaced every 0.45 km2 within 100 km of the coast.) Right: Hurricane Katrina after passing through the simulated array. The wind turbines extracted a huge amount of energy from the hurricane, significantly reducing its winds. Image credit: Mark Jacobson and Cristina Archer, “Taming Hurricanes With Arrays of Offshore Wind Turbines”, presentation made to the Willet Kempton Wind Energy Symposium University of Delaware February 27, 2013.

Vulnerability of wind turbines to hurricane winds
The wind turbines used in the study shut down when winds hit 76 mph, and are destroyed at wind speeds of 112 mph. The eyewall winds of Katrina did destroy a number of turbines in the simulation. Even so, the cost of the lost turbines in such a case would likely be made up for by the reduced damage of the hurricane’s winds and storm surge at the coast due to the presence of the wind turbine array. Note that a 2012 paper by Rose et al. that got a lot of media attention, “Quantifying the hurricane risk to offshore wind turbines“, significantly overestimated the risks of wind turbines being destroyed by a hurricane, as pointed out by NOAA hurricane scientist Dr. Mark Powell, and as conceded by the authors of the study. It is reasonable to build large offshore arrays of wind turbines in hurricane-prone regions, provided some extra engineering effort is put into the design of these turbines. A talk presented at AGU yesterday by Jay Apt and Stephen Rose of Carnegie Mellon University, “Quantifying the hurricane risk to offshore wind power,” recommended that offshore wind turbines install backup power systems in order to orient the blades correctly to reduce extreme wind loads during hurricane conditions.

More research needs to be done on how large wind turbine arrays might affect the weather. These turbines could potentially cause significant changes to precipitation patterns along the coast. As I blogged about in 2012, in the Southeast U.S., tropical cyclones provide 15 - 20% of the annual precipitation, and 20% - 50% of all droughts between 1960 - 2009 were busted by a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane. If wind turbine arrays reduce the intensity of tropical storms making landfall, it makes sense that the amount of rain they dump will also decline. Droughts are often more damaging than hurricanes, and it may be necessary to shut down a large array of coastal wind turbines in a situation where a tropical storm or hurricane with drought-busting rains is headed for a drought region. Who should make this decision? How strong of a storm should we let hit? There are many tough questions to answer.


Figure 2. Wind turbine damage on Miyakojima Island, Japan after Typhoon Maemi struck on September 11, 2003. Image credit: Takahara, et al., 2004, “Damages of wind turbine on Miyakojima Island by Typhoon Maemi in 2003.”

Wind to power the world?
Dr. Jacobson is a big booster of wind power. A 2012 paper that he published along with co-author Christina Archer in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that there is enough wind to exceed the total world energy demand by several times, even after accounting for reductions in wind speed caused by the wind turbines. Their model showed that 4 million turbines, each operating at a height of 100 meters and producing 5 megawatts, could supply 7.5 terawatts of power—more than half the world's all-purpose power demand—without significant negative effects on the climate. "To get there, however, we have a long way to go. Today, we have installed a little over 1 percent of the wind power needed," Jacobson said, in a Stanford press release. Half of the 4 million turbines would be situated over water, and the other 2 million would require a little more than 0.5% percent of Earth's land surface—about half the area of the state of Alaska. However, virtually none of this area would be used solely for wind, but could serve dual purposes such as open space, farmland, ranchland or wildlife preserve.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll be back Monday with a new post.

Jeff Masters

Hurricane

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Quoting 968. TropicalAnalystwx13:

I usually split up the USA like this:



...though some states, such as North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, could be considered part of two groups.


KY should go w the ohio valley/great lakes
With my 2014 Hurricane Season forecast released "Bow Down". Link
Beautiful morning on Fort Myers Beach. A little cool 63 degrees, but not bad.
Quoting 998. Sfloridacat5:



Probably be a record breaking season if the professionals are predicting a slow season.

I put no trust what so ever in these seasonal hurricane forecasts.


LOL. Dr. Scott is me however the Dr. Gray is thinking low numbers as well so we will see.
What a beautiful morning... This is the first time in months that I can finally open the windows and the sliders.... Yippee
Quoting 1004. StormTrackerScott:


LOL. Dr. Scott is me however the Dr. Gray is thinking low numbers as well so we will see.


After last year's dismal season, coming in with low numbers seems like a save bet. Dr. Gray even admitted "we still have a lot to learn."
He got that right.
My kids at school did better than Dr. Gray at predicting named storms last season.
1007. SLU
LOL!!!!!





Quoting 1007. SLU:
LOL!!!!!







lol what?
Quoting 1007. SLU:
LOL!!!!!







GFS shows a frontal boundry sweeping through the S.E. on Dec. 24th. That should sweep everything up and away with it.
1010. SLU
Quoting 1008. FunnelVortex:


lol what?


Tropical Storm "Nestor"
Quoting 1008. FunnelVortex:


lol what?


I think he's laughing at the small system in the Caribbean/Southern Atlantic.
Quoting 1010. SLU:


Tropical Storm "Nestor"


I see. Slow blog this morning
Based upon the past few Atlantic Hurricane season years; between the stable air, proliferation of tropical storms, and lack of major hurricanes, it seems to be getting harder to make accurate pre-season predictions.  Past predictions, and and specifically the historically more accurate early-late season updates (May going into August updates) from the major outlets (including NHC and Colorado State) have been based primarily on the applicable Enso condition and other big ticket items such as sst's, overall sheer conditions, and SAL issues.  Even so, we have seen so called "favorable" conditions collapse in recent years due to other factors outside of the big-ticket items; faster than usual trade winds in the 2012 season and unusually stable air in the 2013 season.

My point is that the last two-three seasons have been a departure (prediction wise) from the majority of previous analog years thus resulting in the worst pre-season predictions we have seen after a pretty good track record in previous years with the exception of the very anomalous 2005 record season. 

We might have to start thinking out of the box from the traditional big-ticket items in upcoming years and bringing other less obvious factors into the prediction equation.  Finally, given the very low success rate of predictions this far out, I would take all of them (between now and the August 2014 updates) with a big grain of salt.
Mauritius Meteorological Services
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #8
DEPRESSION TROPICALE 02-20132014
16:30 PM RET December 16 2013
============================================

At 12:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression (996 hPa) located at 15.7S 73.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The depression is reported as moving west southwest at 10 knots.

Gale Force Winds
=================
locally 120 NM radius from the center in the northwest quadrant

Near Gale Force Winds
========================
100 NM radius from the center, extending up to 220 NM in the northwest quadrant

Dvorak Intensity: T2.5/2.5/D0.5/12 HRS

Forecast and Intensity
=========================
12 HRS 16.0S 71.7E - 35 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modérée)
24 HRS 15.9S 70.5E - 40 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modérée)
48 HRS 15.7S 68.3E - 50 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
72 HRS 16.1S 65.4E - 60 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)

Additional Information
==========================
This general pattern of the system has a few evovled for the last 6 hours. The cyclonic curvature has accentuated, but convection is not yet consolidated. 0726z oceansat-2 winds data shows only the western part of the system. Consequently, it is difficult to calibrate winds extensions. However, at this time, strongest winds seem to be present in the northwestern quadrant. Current intensity is maintained at 30 knots with locally gale force winds 35 knots within the northwestern quadrant.

The system is still moving west southwestward, under the steering influence of the lower levels subtropical high pressures. A weakness of the ridge should leave the system within a weak steering environment, that will cause a slow down of the forward motion until Wednesday. From Thursday, the system should accelerate again on a west southwestward track. At the end of the forecast period, an upper level trough may do to decelerate the system again and even do it curve clearly southward.

Over this expected track, the easterly to northeasterly vertical wind-shear should gradually decrease and allow the system to deepen progressively. The sea surface temperatures are favorable on the forecast track.

The current forecast track is close to the two last available ECMWF deterministic outputs (16/0000 UTC and 16/06z). The latest output from the ECMWF ensemble forecast (16/0000 UTC) still shows some significant spread in the tracks at medium range of the forecast that induces a rather low confidence in both track and intensity forecast.

Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice #2
TROPICAL LOW 03U
8:49 PM WST December 16 2013
============================================

At 7:00 PM WST, Tropical Low (1000 hPa) located at 8.5S 98.1E or 435 km north northeast of Cocos Island has 10 minute sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving west southwest at 7 knots.

The low is moving west southwest and may develop into a tropical cyclone on Wednesday as it passes to the northwest of Cocos Islands.

GALES are not expected on the Cocos Islands during Tuesday, however GALES with gusts to 100 km/h are possible during Wednesday and may persist into Thursday morning.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to increase later Tuesday as the system moves closer. Depending on the movement of the low, the rain and thunderstorms should continue through Wednesday then ease on Thursday.

Forecast and Intensity
=========================
12 HRS 8.5S 97.5E - 25 knots (Tropical Low)
24 HRS 8.8S 96.7E - 30 knots (Tropical Low)
48 HRS 10.9S 94.3E - 40 knots (CAT 1)
72 HRS 12.3S 90.7E - 50 knots (CAT 2)

Additional Information
=========================
The low has been located with a combination of animated satellite imagery, microwave imagery and scatterometer winds. However, due to the broad circulation there is some uncertainty as to its exact position.

The system has recently moved west southwest, however this movement is expected to slow over the next 12-24 hours before resuming a more southwesterly track later on Tuesday. While the current position is uncertain, there is a reasonable amount of confidence in the forecast motion as there is strong agreement between the models.

Shear at 06Z was moderate [15 to 25 knots] with lighter shear to the south of the system. With the system moving into lighter shear, development is likely. Model guidance indicates the system strengthens and 90% or greater of the EC ensemble members have a greater than 34 knot system during Thursday and Friday.

Current intensity is based on scatterometer winds. Unable to assign T1.0 as yet. The forecast intensity is based on conditions being moderately favorable with shear decreasing as the system moves south. sea surface temperatures are high and there is no dry air expected to effect the system.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
=================================
A Cyclone WATCH continues for a developing tropical low for the Cocos Islands
Quoting 1013. weathermanwannabe:
Based upon the past few Atlantic Hurricane season years; between the stable air, proliferation of tropical storms, and lack of major hurricanes, it seems to be getting harder to make accurate pre-season predictions. Past predictions, and and specifically the historically more accurate early-late season updates (May going into August updates) from the major outlets (including NHC and Colorado State) have been based primarily on the applicable Enso condition and other big ticket items such as sst's, overall sheer conditions, and SAL issues. Even so, we have seen so called "favorable" conditions collapse in recent years due to other factors outside of the big-ticket items; faster than usual trade winds in the 2012 season and unusually stable air in the 2013 season.

My point is that the last two-three seasons have been a departure (prediction wise) from the majority of previous analog years thus resulting in the worst pre-season predictions we have seen after a pretty good track record in previous years with the exception of the very anomalous 2005 record season.

We might have to start thinking out of the box from the traditional big-ticket items in upcoming years and bringing other less obvious factors into the prediction equation. Finally, given the very low success rate of predictions this far out, I would take all of them (between now and the August 2014 updates) with a big grain of salt.

Interesting read here of CSU December qualitative discussion of 2014 North Atlantic season where they talk about new factors to take into consideration.

Quoting 1015. Tropicsweatherpr:


Interesting read here of CSU December qualitative discussion of 2014 North Atlantic season where they talk about new factors to take into consideration.
Thanks; here is an example from this discussion as to what I alluded to below in terms of going outside of the normal factors:

We attribute a sizable portion of the reduction in the 2013 hurricane activity to the unusual springtime (April through June) weakening of the THC/AMO and the associated large increase in strength of the Atlantic gyre. We failed to realize the importance of this first half of the year reduction in the strength of the THC and increase in strength of the subtropical gyre. Part of our failure was due to the rapid reversal in strength of the THC(and gyre) in July that has continued to the present. We will use this 2013 experience to more carefully monitor the smaller-scale changes of the THC in the future.
1017. JRRP
Quoting SLU:
LOL!!!!!






and the EURO
Rather than talk about next year's hurricane season (in December), most of the US is in the 20-30's this morning with the exception of extreme South California, Texas, and the Florida Peninsula.  As it should be this time of the year although I am surprised that my local forecast today for North Florida has us with a high of 76 on Friday; might see a few record highs in these parts if that comes to pass.

  • Friday Partly sunny, with a high near 76.
  • Friday Night A 20 percent chance of
    rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 57.
  • Saturday A 20 percent chance of
    showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 76.

1019. ricderr
We will use this 2013 experience to more carefully monitor the smaller-scale changes of the THC in the future.



as much as i dislike early season forecasts.....the only saving grace is the explanation of the science behind the prediction...both in the forecast itself and then the reasoning post season
Quoting 1019. ricderr:
We will use this 2013 experience to more carefully monitor the smaller-scale changes of the THC in the future.



as much as i dislike early season forecasts.....the only saving grace is the explanation of the science behind the prediction...both in the forecast itself and then the reasoning post season



2014 hurricane season outlook

there is going to be storms
some not bad some real bad
all of them will spin
but maybe not long
to become strong
1021. ricderr
2014 hurricane season outlook

there is going to be storms
some not bad some real bad
all of them will spin
but maybe not long
to become strong






the first ever correct early season prediction :-)
1022. Torito
Quoting 1014. HadesGodWyvern:
Mauritius Meteorological Services
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #8
DEPRESSION TROPICALE 02-20132014
16:30 PM RET December 16 2013
============================================

At 12:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression (996 hPa) located at 15.7S 73.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The depression is reported as moving west southwest at 10 knots.


1023. Torito
Tomorrow's TCFP.

1024. eddye
sfl catgory 5 dude the gfs shows us geting into the 30 dec 28
winter storm for the northeast again
1026. NCstu
Quoting 1014. HadesGodWyvern:
Mauritius Meteorological Services
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #8
DEPRESSION TROPICALE 02-20132014
16:30 PM RET December 16 2013
============================================

At 12:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression (996 hPa) located at 15.7S 73.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The depression is reported as moving west southwest at 10 knots.

Gale Force Winds
=================
locally 120 NM radius from the center in the northwest quadrant

Near Gale Force Winds
========================
100 NM radius from the center, extending up to 220 NM in the northwest quadrant

Dvorak Intensity: T2.5/2.5/D0.5/12 HRS

Forecast and Intensity
=========================
12 HRS 16.0S 71.7E - 35 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modérée)
24 HRS 15.9S 70.5E - 40 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modérée)
48 HRS 15.7S 68.3E - 50 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
72 HRS 16.1S 65.4E - 60 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)

Additional Information
==========================
This general pattern of the system has a few evovled for the last 6 hours. The cyclonic curvature has accentuated, but convection is not yet consolidated. 0726z oceansat-2 winds data shows only the western part of the system. Consequently, it is difficult to calibrate winds extensions. However, at this time, strongest winds seem to be present in the northwestern quadrant. Current intensity is maintained at 30 knots with locally gale force winds 35 knots within the northwestern quadrant.

The system is still moving west southwestward, under the steering influence of the lower levels subtropical high pressures. A weakness of the ridge should leave the system within a weak steering environment, that will cause a slow down of the forward motion until Wednesday. From Thursday, the system should accelerate again on a west southwestward track. At the end of the forecast period, an upper level trough may do to decelerate the system again and even do it curve clearly southward.

Over this expected track, the easterly to northeasterly vertical wind-shear should gradually decrease and allow the system to deepen progressively. The sea surface temperatures are favorable on the forecast track.

The current forecast track is close to the two last available ECMWF deterministic outputs (16/0000 UTC and 16/06z). The latest output from the ECMWF ensemble forecast (16/0000 UTC) still shows some significant spread in the tracks at medium range of the forecast that induces a rather low confidence in both track and intensity forecast.

Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice #2
TROPICAL LOW 03U
8:49 PM WST December 16 2013
============================================

At 7:00 PM WST, Tropical Low (1000 hPa) located at 8.5S 98.1E or 435 km north northeast of Cocos Island has 10 minute sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving west southwest at 7 knots.

The low is moving west southwest and may develop into a tropical cyclone on Wednesday as it passes to the northwest of Cocos Islands.

GALES are not expected on the Cocos Islands during Tuesday, however GALES with gusts to 100 km/h are possible during Wednesday and may persist into Thursday morning.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to increase later Tuesday as the system moves closer. Depending on the movement of the low, the rain and thunderstorms should continue through Wednesday then ease on Thursday.

Forecast and Intensity
=========================
12 HRS 8.5S 97.5E - 25 knots (Tropical Low)
24 HRS 8.8S 96.7E - 30 knots (Tropical Low)
48 HRS 10.9S 94.3E - 40 knots (CAT 1)
72 HRS 12.3S 90.7E - 50 knots (CAT 2)

Additional Information
=========================
The low has been located with a combination of animated satellite imagery, microwave imagery and scatterometer winds. However, due to the broad circulation there is some uncertainty as to its exact position.

The system has recently moved west southwest, however this movement is expected to slow over the next 12-24 hours before resuming a more southwesterly track later on Tuesday. While the current position is uncertain, there is a reasonable amount of confidence in the forecast motion as there is strong agreement between the models.

Shear at 06Z was moderate [15 to 25 knots] with lighter shear to the south of the system. With the system moving into lighter shear, development is likely. Model guidance indicates the system strengthens and 90% or greater of the EC ensemble members have a greater than 34 knot system during Thursday and Friday.

Current intensity is based on scatterometer winds. Unable to assign T1.0 as yet. The forecast intensity is based on conditions being moderately favorable with shear decreasing as the system moves south. sea surface temperatures are high and there is no dry air expected to effect the system.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
=================================
A Cyclone WATCH continues for a developing tropical low for the Cocos Islands


I used to do actuarial work for a company in Mauritius. So not only does the place exist, they have an insurance industry too!
1027. JRRP
I got blasted Friday night and Saturday morning. Had about 8" at 7am, then the temperature was too warm, 37F, while it still was snowing heavily till about 10AM. It was an extremely wet and heavy snow, still about 6" compacted on the ground. :) Great stuff.

JeffMasters has created a new entry.
1030. LargoFl