Dutch Windmills at Risk from Climate Change
DE BILT, Netherlands Windmills, one of the Netherlands' trademarks, may go idle because of less wind as a result of climate change, Dutch scientists predict.
New research shows scientists could have been wrong when they forecast years ago that global warming would cause more storms and wind in northwestern Europe, Albert Klein Tank of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) told Reuters.
"We said that 10-15 years ago and what we see in the observations is that the climate is warming but the number of storms is actually decreasing," said Klein Tank, who leads a team making climate scenarios for the Netherlands.
"We don't have a good explanation for that," he told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
The traditional windy climate of northwestern Europe has spurred a rapid growth in windmills, mainly in the Netherlands and Germany, to provide alternative energy.
Dutch windmills, however, saw declining energy production in the past decade because of less wind, Klein Tank said.
"My opinion is that this fluctuation will stabilise in the end but it's not clear at all how it will change in next 20-30 years," he said.
"It is one of the most difficult parts and the biggest challenges for scientists -- to say something realistic about future storms," he said.
A panel of scientists that advises the United Nations has projected that world temperatures are likely to rise by 1.4-5.8 Celsius by 2100, triggering more floods, droughts, storms, melting icecaps and driving thousands of species to extinction.
New scenarios about the Dutch climate, due to be published by KNMI early next year, predict a change in atmospheric flows which means more moisture coming from the North Sea in winter and more frequent droughts in summer, Klein Tank said.
Summer rainfall is also likely to become heavier because of rising temperatures, threatening an increase in river levels and floods in the low-lying Netherlands.
Klein Tank's colleague, Rob Van Dorland, said rising sea level was another danger for his country, which had battled for centuries to claw back land from the sea.
The new scenarios also forecast a 10-percent lower average temperature rise in the Netherlands by 2100 than that for the entire planet, due to the influence of the sea.
Van Dorland said huge efforts were needed to slow global warming but he believes it is too late to stop it altogether.
"It's too late now to avoid the temperature rise. It's unchangeable," he said. "But if we are doing our very best, by reducing CO2 levels by 60 to 80 percent between now and 2050, we can avoid a temperature rise higher than 1-2 degrees (Celsius)."
Scientists say increasing concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), from human activity is to blame for global warming.
"We still make the conclusion that the human factor is dominant in the last 50 to 60 years or so ... We can be conclusive about that because if you look at the natural factors the planet would have cooled," Van Dorland said.
He and Klein Tank are among about 120 scientists from around the world involved in producing the next U.N. report on climate change due in 2007. Its conclusions are expected to have a big impact in guiding government policy on fighting global warming.