Many studies analyzing surface wind speed observations find a decrease in wind speed over the last 30 to 50 years. A cause sometimes proposed is increasing surface roughness, although to date the evidence that this is the primary factor is still inconclusive. In this study, changes in surface roughness are investigated for 20 stations in the Netherlands and 137 stations in 7 other European countries. From the Dutch data set, local aerodynamic roughness lengths were calculated from hourly gust factors. Trends in wind speed for individual stations and wind direction sectors correlate negatively with trends in surface roughness. For 1962–2009, typically a doubling of the local roughness length was found, with the strongest increase after 1981. An accompanying average decrease in wind speed by 3.1% (0.13 m/s) per decade was found for 1981–2009. A conceptual boundary layer model was used to show that 70% of the wind speed trend can be attributed to surface roughness changes; the remaining 30% of the trend remains unresolved. Changes in land use, including urbanization, forestation, and a decrease in pasture land area, are probable causes for the increasing surface roughness. For the European station data from the European Climate Assessment and Dataset (ECA&D) and the Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss), the analysis was restricted to daily gust factors. Observed trends in wind speed at stations correlate negatively with trends in gust factors. Averaged over all stations, the wind speed decreased 1.2% (0.05 m/s) per decade over 1982–2009, consistent with increasing surface roughness.
N Wever. Quantifying trends in surface roughness and the effect on surface wind speed observations
Status: published, Journal: J. Geophys. Res., Volume: 117, Year: 2012, First page: D11104, doi: 10.1029/2011JD017118