, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 307-326

Diurnal and seasonal variations of wind farm impacts on land surface temperature over western Texas

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Abstract

This paper analyzes seasonal and diurnal variations of MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) land surface temperature (LST) data at ~1.1 km for the period of 2003–2011 over a region in West-Central Texas, where four of the world’s largest wind farms are located. Seasonal anomalies are created from MODIS Terra (~10:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. local solar time) and Aqua (~1:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. local solar time) LSTs, and their spatiotemporal variability is analyzed by comparing the LST changes between wind farm pixels (WFPs) and nearby non wind farm pixels (NNWFPs) using different methods under different quality controls. Our analyses show consistently that there is a warming effect of 0.31–0.70 °C at nighttime for the nine-year period during which data was collected over WFPs relative to NNWFPs, in all seasons for both Terra and Aqua measurements, while the changes at daytime are much noisier. The nighttime warming effect is much larger in summer than winter and at ~10:30 p.m. than ~1:30 a.m. and hence the largest warming effect is observed at ~10:30 p.m. in summer. The spatial pattern and magnitude of this warming effect couple very well with the geographic distribution of wind turbines and such coupling is stronger at nighttime than daytime and in summer than winter. Together, these results suggest that the warming effect observed in MODIS over wind farms are very likely attributable to the development of wind farms. This inference is consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with time during the study period, the diurnal and seasonal variations in the frequency of wind speed and direction distribution, and the changes in near-surface atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) conditions due to wind farm operations. The nocturnal ABL is typically stable and much thinner than the daytime ABL and hence the turbine enhanced vertical mixing produces a stronger nighttime effect. The stronger wind speed and the higher frequency of the wind speed within the optimal power generation range in summer than winter and at nighttime than daytime likely drives wind turbines to generate more electricity and turbulence and consequently results in the strongest warming effect at nighttime in summer. Similarly, the stronger wind speed and the higher frequency of optimal wind speed at ~10:30 p.m. than that at ~1:30 a.m. might help explain, to some extent, why the nighttime LST warming effect is slightly larger at ~10:30 p.m. than ~1:30 a.m. The nighttime warming effect seen in spring and fall are smaller than that in summer and can be explained similarly.