Model-Based Projections and Uncertainties of Near-Surface Wind Climate in Western Canada

Jeffrey T. Daines University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Adam H. Monahan University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Charles L. Curry University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Abstract

Near-surface wind is important in forestry, agriculture, air pollution, building energy use, and wind power generation. In western Canada it presently plays a minor role in power generation, but ongoing reductions in the cost of wind power infrastructure and the increasing costs of conventional power generation (including environmental costs) motivate the assessment of the projected future wind climate and uncertainties in this projection. Multiple realizations of the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM) at 45-km resolution were driven by two global climate models over the periods 1971–2000 (using historical greenhouse gas concentrations) and 2031–60 (using the SRES-A2 concentration scenario). Hourly wind speeds from 30 stations were analyzed over 1971–2000 and used to calibrate downscaled ensembles of projected wind speed distributions over 2031–60. At most station locations modest increases in mean wind speed were found for a majority of the projections, but with an ensemble spread of the same order of magnitude as the increases. Relative changes in mean wind speeds at station locations were found to be insensitive to the station observations and calibration technique. In view of this result, projected relative changes in future wind climate over the entire CRCM domain were estimated using uncalibrated pairs of past-period and future-period wind speed distributions. The relative changes are robust, in the sense that their ensemble mean relative change is greater than their standard deviation, but are not very substantial, in the sense that their ensemble mean change is generally less than the standard deviation of their annual means.

Corresponding author address: Jeffrey T. Daines, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3065 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 3V6, Canada. E-mail: jtdaines@uvic.ca

Abstract

Near-surface wind is important in forestry, agriculture, air pollution, building energy use, and wind power generation. In western Canada it presently plays a minor role in power generation, but ongoing reductions in the cost of wind power infrastructure and the increasing costs of conventional power generation (including environmental costs) motivate the assessment of the projected future wind climate and uncertainties in this projection. Multiple realizations of the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM) at 45-km resolution were driven by two global climate models over the periods 1971–2000 (using historical greenhouse gas concentrations) and 2031–60 (using the SRES-A2 concentration scenario). Hourly wind speeds from 30 stations were analyzed over 1971–2000 and used to calibrate downscaled ensembles of projected wind speed distributions over 2031–60. At most station locations modest increases in mean wind speed were found for a majority of the projections, but with an ensemble spread of the same order of magnitude as the increases. Relative changes in mean wind speeds at station locations were found to be insensitive to the station observations and calibration technique. In view of this result, projected relative changes in future wind climate over the entire CRCM domain were estimated using uncalibrated pairs of past-period and future-period wind speed distributions. The relative changes are robust, in the sense that their ensemble mean relative change is greater than their standard deviation, but are not very substantial, in the sense that their ensemble mean change is generally less than the standard deviation of their annual means.

Corresponding author address: Jeffrey T. Daines, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3065 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 3V6, Canada. E-mail: jtdaines@uvic.ca
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