Long-Term Declining Trends in Historical Wind Measurements at the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, 1885-2013
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
The Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, located on the 635-foot summit of Great Blue Hill ten miles south of Boston, Massachusetts, has been the site of continuous monitoring of the local weather and climate since its founding in 1885. The meticulous, extensive and high-quality climate record maintained at this location has included the measurement of wind among many other parameters since its earliest days, and this provides a unique opportunity to examine wind speed trends at this site over nearly 130 years. Although multiple wind sensors have been in use during this time and the height of the anemometers was raised in 1908, the wind records have been made as consistent as possible through careful analysis of these changes and the application of adjustments to ensure consistency. The 30-year mean wind speed at this location has decreased from 6.8 m s-1 in the middle 20th century to its present value of 6.0 m s-1 with an increase in the rate of the decline beginning around 1980. The wind speed time series shows a significant (p < 0.05) downward trend over the entire period from 1885-2013 (-0.085 m s-1 decade-1) that is stronger and also significant for the sub-periods from 1961-2013 (-0.266 m s-1 decade-1) and 1979-2008 (-0.342 m s-1 decade-1). This declining trend persists in all seasons and has significant implications for the efficiency of wind power generation in the area, if it reflects a regional change in the near-surface wind regime. The wind instruments in use since the 19th century will be described, and the official long-term record will be compared with measurements from other wind sensors at the Observatory and surrounding locations. In addition, initial investigations of the possible causes of the wind speed decline will be presented in the context of global stilling (i.e. the theory of a widespread decline in measured near-surface wind speed), including an analysis of the wind speed change as a function of wind direction.