Earth becoming a windier place: Study

Research has found a slow but steady increase in top wind speeds across the oceans over last 23 years.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2011, 19:14 PM IST

Washington: A new study has revealed that the world is getting breezier.
Although global warming is a suspect, researchers can’t say for sure whether climate change is behind the growing gusts, reports Discovery News.

The research has found a slow but steady increase in top wind speeds across the oceans over the last 23 years.

Ian Young, a physical oceanographer at the Australian National University in Melbourne and colleagues gathered data from seven satellites taken between 1985 and 2008.

Then, they used five independent statistical techniques to combine, calibrate and calculate the records. All five produced the same result.

Despite large seasonal variations, the mean wind speed over the oceans hasn’t changed much in the last two decades, the researchers said.

Speeds of the fastest winds, though, have risen by about half a percent each year, and heights of the biggest waves have risen by between a quarter and half a percent each year. Those trends have been strongest in the southern hemisphere.

Over time, these kinds of small and incremental rises add up. Off the coast of Southern Australia, for example, the tallest 1 percent of waves have risen from five to six meters. The most extreme winds are now blowing 10 percent faster than they used to.

Mark Donelan, an oceanographer at the University of Miami in Florida, said the ongoing changes in the most extreme conditions could have major consequences.

If winds continue to get gustier at the same rate over the next 50 years, for example, the destructive forces of Category 5 hurricanes would multiply.

“They’d go from knocking over 90 percent of the buildings to knocking over all the buildings,” Donelan said.

The findings were published in the journal Science.