So apparently Mother Earth is finding herself short of breath these days. Like a pack-a-day smoker, she wakes up in the morning hawking gooey brown mucous into a well-worn handkerchief, stretches her aching ribcage as she stumbles out of her nicotine-yellowed sheets and reaches for the pack of Marlboro Lights she keeps on her bedside table to start the process all over again.
You’re welcome for that exceptionally unpleasant image, by the way. Grossing you people out is a source of considerable pride for me.
If you run the preceding paragraph through the Alex-James-Metaphor-to-Ordinary-English decoder, you’ll find that scientists are starting to have pretty serious concerns that the average wind speed on earth is steadily declining – likely as a result of global warming.
Scientists are still fighting out the details of this new development, which they aren’t entirely sure is accurate yet, but the prospects don’t look good. According to new studies, there’s been a dramatic decrease in high-wind days, especially in the mid-western United States. States like Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, northern Maine and western Montana are all showing significant drops in wind-heavy periods over the last two decades or so.
Eugene Takle, professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University, suggests the drop in wind speeds is likely a result of an increased trend in global warming across the world. Force of wind (which, at its core, is just a measurement of air particles moving around) is the result of changing atmospheric pressure, itself a result of warm and cold air fronts colliding. As the North and South poles heat up thanks to global warming, the difference in temperature between the Poles and the Equator diminishes, equaling declining disparity in barometric pressure (how’s that for alliteration?) – which itself equals, in layman’s terms, less wind.
Why is this an issue? I’m sure people in Kansas or Chicago probably won’t mind not getting blown off their feet three hundred days out of the year, and not too many people use sailboats as their primary mode of transportation anymore, so who cares?
Well, wind power activists, for one.
The power of irony never ceases to paradoxically amuse and depress me. I’ve written on the subject of wind power before, and I’ve argued pretty hard against it being a viable solution to the energy crisis. But at least the big green hearts of those well-meaning environmentalists are in the right place – they’re trying to effect positive change in the world, despite being a little backward in their understanding of efficient power sources (there are much better alternatives they haven’t really considered). It’s devastatingly ironic, therefore, that the very problem they’re trying to combat is actually curtailing their efforts to fix it.
Like I said in the previous post, wind power is a really nice idea. I like it. I think it’s nifty. But clearly if this study proves to be grounded in empirical fact, it’s a dead end. If global warming is actually having a negative effect on the planet’s ability to generate a decent breeze, then the push towards wind power is putting the cart in front of the horse. Instead of lessening our dependence on fossil fuels using alternate energy sources, we should first work on limiting the destructive effects our current energy sources have on the environment in order to curb global warming. Only then we can start figuring out how to harness atmospheric pressure to power our day-to-day lives.
Let’s get on it before we have to put Mama Nature on a ventilator.