Monthly Archives: February 2009

An Egregious Example Of Biased News Reporting

I was quite stunned this morning to read the following news articles

“Global warming seen worse than predicted” by Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters

 “Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates”By Kari Lydersen of the Washington Post.

These news is also reported at 431 other sites according to a search on google.

These articles are based on statements by Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Field as an expert on the carbon cycle [I also have worked with him in the past].

However, while he is credentialed in climate science and certainly can have his own opinion, the selection of his statements to highlight in prominent news articles, without presenting counter perspectives by other climate scientists, is a clear example of media bias.

Dr. Fields is reported to have said

“We are basically looking now at a future climate that’s beyond anything we’ve considered seriously in climate model simulations”.

This claim, though, conflicts with real world observations!

For example, Climate Science has recently weblogged on the issue of global warming; see

 Update On A Comparison Of Upper Ocean Heat Content Changes With The GISS Model Predictions.

Since mid-2003, there has been no upper ocean global average warming; an observation which is not consistent with the GISS model predictions over this time period.

The recent and current tropospheric temperature data (e.g. see Figure 7 in this RSS MSU data), also show that the global lower tropospheric temperatures today are no warmer than they were in 2002.

The recent global warming is less than the IPCC models predict, and, even more so, in disagreement with the news articles.  

Since papers and weblogs have documented that the warming is being over-estimated in recent years, and, thus, these sources of information are readily available to the reporters, there is, therefore, no other alternative than these reporters are deliberately selecting a biased perspective to promote a particular viewpoint on climate.  The reporting of this news without presenting counter viewpoints is clearly an example of yellow journalism;

“Journalism that exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news to create sensations and attract readers.”

When will the news media and others realize that by presenting such biased reports, which are easily refuted by real world data, they are losing their credibility among many in the scientific community as well as with the public.

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Article By Josh Willis “Is It Me, or Did the Oceans Cool? A Lesson On Global Warming From My Favorite Denier”

There is a candid, honest, and informative article by Josh Willis that appeared in the newsletter U.S. Clivar Variations. It is

Is It Me, or Did the Oceans Cool? A Lesson on Global Warming from my Favorite Denier by Josh K. Willis of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory ofCalifornia Institute of Technology.

It is worth reading. The article chronicles his experience with correcting the error in his orginal analysis, but also in presenting us with an effective summary of the current science and engineering of diagnosing ocean heat content. He presents two informative figures in the article, which are reproduced below

There are two major conclusions that are evident from these figures:

  • In Figure 2, the wide distribution of the profiling floats provides very good spatial coverage of the oceans except for the highest latitudes


  • As discussed in Pielke Sr., R.A., 2003: Heat storage within the Earth system. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 84, 331-335, it is the change in ocean heat content that provides the most effective diagnostic of global warming and cooling. Thus unless further checks on the upper ocean measurements find errors, there has been no significant ocean heating since mid-2003. This means that we now have 5 1/2 years without global warming as measured by this climate metric.



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Another Example Of The Importance Of Land Management Within The Climate System – A New Paper By Ridgwell Et Al 2009 Entitled “Tackling Regional Climate Change By Leaf Albedo Bio-Geoengineering”

There is an interesting New York Times article by Henry Fountain titled “More-Reflective Crops May Have Cooling Effect” [and thanks to Matei Georgescu for alerting us to it!]. The article states that

“Andy Ridgwell and colleagues at the University of Bristol in England have another idea, one they call bio-geoengineering. Rather than developing infrastructure to help cool the planet, they propose using an existing one: agriculture.

Their calculations, published in Current Biology, suggest that by planting crop varieties that reflect more sunlight, summertime cooling of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit could be obtained across central North America and a wide band of Europe and Asia.”

This NY Times article is based on the paper

Andy Ridgwell1,Joy S. Singarayer,Alistair M. Hetherington andPaul J. Valdes: 2009 “Tackling Regional Climate Change By Leaf Albedo Bio-geoengineering“. Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 2, 146-150, 15 January 2009

The abstact of this paper reads

 “The likelihood that continuing greenhouse-gas emissions will lead to an unmanageable degree of climate change [1] has stimulated the search for planetary-scale technological solutions for reducing global warming [2] (geoengineering), typically characterized by the necessity for costly new infrastructures and industries [3]. We suggest that the existing global infrastructure associated with arable agriculture can help, given that crop plants exert an important influence over the climatic energy budget [4,5] because of differences in their albedo (solar reflectivity) compared to soils and to natural vegetation [6]. Specifically, we propose a bio-geoengineering approach to mitigate surface warming, in which crop varieties having specific leaf glossiness and/or canopy morphological traits are specifically chosen to maximize solar reflectivity. We quantify this by modifying the canopy albedo of vegetation in prescribed cropland areas in a global-climate model, and thereby estimate the near-term potential for bio-geoengineering to be a summertime cooling of more than 1C throughout much of central North America and midlatitude Eurasia, equivalent to seasonally offsetting approximately one-fifth of regional warming due to doubling of atmospheric CO2[7]. Ultimately, genetic modification of plant leaf waxes or canopy structure could achieve greater temperature reductions, although better characterization of existing intraspecies variability is needed first.”

The conclusion reads

“Increasing canopy albedo of vegetation in designated cropland areas in a global climate model by 20% (0.04) drives a >1C reduction in summertime surface air temperatures in a wide latitudinal band spanning North America and Eurasia. Genetic modification or selective breeding of crop plants for specific leaf-surface properties and canopy structure could provide further mitigation of surface warming. Because the main investment is in research and field trials, the relatively low cost of implementation of crop albedo bio-geoengineering makes it potentially very attractive when compared to the equivalent costs of geoengineering or carbon sequestration. However, there is a clear need for more research into characterizing the variability in albedo that exists between the different variants and strains of common crop plants to underpin any such undertaking. Changes in crop reflectivity must also not significantly
negatively impact on crop yield through excessive reduction in the absorption of photosynthetically active radiation by chloroplasts under nonsaturating light conditions. Overall, bio-geoengineering could fulfill a role as a temporary measure for reducing the severity of agricultural and health impacts of heat waves in the industrialized North, but on a global scale, it has limited effectiveness for the mitigation of future climate change and cannot substitute for CO2 emissions reductions. Furthermore, although a prominent increase in summertime soil moisture in the southern states of the U.S. also occurs, soil moisture changes show no simple spatial relationship to the prescribed albedo changes, illustrating the difficulties in predicting the response of the global climate system to deliberate modification, particularly with respect to rainfall patterns. The potential for significant regional inequity in soil-moisture changes poses important geopolitical questions.”

This is yet another example of the importance of the human management of the landscape within the regional climate system. A summary of this effect, as well as documenting that advertant and inadvertant land management is not a ‘temporary measure” and that this management has significant consequences even on the global scale, was published in the articles

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2005: Land use and climate change. Science, 310, 1625-1626

Pielke Sr., R.A., G. Marland, R.A. Betts, T.N. Chase, J.L. Eastman, J.O. Niles, D. Niyogi, and S. Running, 2002: The influence of land-use change and landscape dynamics on the climate system- relevance to climate change policy beyond the radiative effect of greenhouse gases. Phil. Trans. A. Special Theme Issue, 360, 1705-1719.


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Climatic Effects of 30 Years of Landscape Change over the Greater Phoenix AZ, Region: Part II by Georgescu et al. 2009

Guest Weblog By Matei Georgescu

Previously, the modeled effect of observed (from the early 1970s to the early 2000s) land use/land cover change (LULCC) over one of the most rapidly developing regions in the US, the semi-arid Greater Phoenix [AZ] region, was shown to have an important impact on the surface energy budget and the near-surface atmosphere (e.g., temperature, dewpoint temperature; see).  We address the role of these surface budget changes and subsequent repartitioning of energy on the mesoscale dynamics/thermodynamics of the region, their impact on convective rainfall, and the association with the synoptic scale North American Monsoon (NAM) circulation in a follow-up paper:

Georgescu, M., G. Miguez-Macho, L. T. Steyaert, and C. P. Weaver (2009), Climatic effects of 30 years of landscape change over the Greater Phoenix, Arizona, region: 2. Dynamical and thermodynamical response, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2008JD010762, in press.  (subscription required)

Our modeling results show a systematic difference in total accumulated precipitation between the most recent (2001) and least recent (1973) landscape reconstructions: a rainfall enhancement for 2001 relative to the 1973 landscape. We note that while we see this similarity among the “dry” hydrometeorological seasons, the difference pattern for the “wet” seasons does not indicate such an effect on rainfall.

We find that changes in differential heating, resulting from the evolution of the underlying landscape, produce preferentially located mesoscale circulations (evident on most days) which were stronger for the most recent landscape representation (2001) as compared to the oldest (1973).  These enhanced circulations warm and dry the lower planetary boundary layer (PBL) – due to enhanced turbulent heating – and moisten the upper PBL and free atmosphere.  While these circulations are shown to alter the properties of the PBL in all Julys studied (the effect was larger during “dry” Julys as compared with “wet” Julys, and indeed, there was variability among the “dry” hydrometeorological months as well), direct dynamical forcing does not seem to be the explanation for the simulated precipitation enhancement (a signal we only observe during “dry” Julys and in two of the trio of months we investigated) resulting from the landscape’s evolution. 

While the cause of initial triggering of precipitation enhancement remains elusive, we do show that precipitation recycling plays an important role in sustaining and enhancing the initial difference in rainfall between the most recent (2001) and the least recent (1973) landscapes. 

Importantly, this work documents the interplay amongst the continuum of scales investigated [ranging from the turbulence scale (smallest) to the synoptic scale (largest)], and underscores some of the non-linearities and complexities involved in the coupled land-atmosphere system.

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Risk To Lives To Cold Weather In The United Kingdom

There is an interesting statement on the risk associated from cold in the United Kingdom from the UK Met Office Website (see).

“An amber alert is triggered when there is a high possibility of a particularly cold spell occurring in the next few days. This is important as there are over 25,000 excess deaths each winter in this country, many of which are preventable. Action taken at this stage can greatly benefit vulnerable groups as the cold weather arrives.”

This is why we need a comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability of society to climate, rather than a focus on the narrow view expressed in the 2007 IPCC assessments of climate change. The current protracted period of well below average temperatures and periods of snow in the UK should be a wake-up call to policymakers that they need to think more broadly in terms of climate policy, than their nearly exclusive focus on the human input of carbon dioxide.

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Current Ocean Temperature Distribution Points To La Niña Conditions

Thanks to Russ Young who has alerted us to the latest plot of equatorial upper level ocean temperatures for February 9 2009 which shows that we are clearly in a La Niña climate pattern.

The large area of significant cold anomalies illustrates why we have not seen recent warming in the upper ocean, as discussed yesterday on Climate Science (see).

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A New Article On Florida Climate Change

Thanks to David F. Zierden, State Climatologist at The Florida Climate Center, for alerting us to this recent new article in Florida Trend by Cynthia Barnett titled

“Climate Change – It’s Hot But Don’t Blame Global Warming
Some Florida cities are getting hotter, but the evolution has more to do with bulldozers and pavement than global warming.”

Except for its erroneous statement about sea level rise at the end of the article, it is an informative article.  For example, the article writes regarding the research of Florida State University professor emeritus Morton D. Winsberg that

 “Their research showed that the hot season in Florida has gotten a lot hotter — and longer — in some places, but not at all in others. The change, however, is unrelated to global warming, the increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. Rather, they found, it’s a function of the lesser-known phenomenon of local warming. The analysis “shows that weather can be very local,” says Winsberg, ‘and also that weather can be a function of population growth.”’

Recently, Climate Science sumamrized a perspective that was the same as given in this article; see

 Can The Everglades Be Restored To Its Original, Pre-European Condition?

Until climate assessments, such as performed by the IPCC, adequately consider local and regional human effects on weather and climate, their studies will clearly result in significant mistakes in their climate attribution analyses.

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Update On A Comparison Of Upper Ocean Heat Content Changes With The GISS Model Predictions

On April 4 2007 Climate Science published the following weblog

A Litmus Test For Global Warming – A Much Overdue Requirement

In that weblog, I wrote

“A figure, such as Figure 8 in Willis, J.K., D. Roemmich, and B. Cornuelle, 2004: Interannual variability in upper ocean heat content, temperature, and thermosteric expansion on global scales. J. Geophys. Res., 109, C12036, doi: 10.1029/2003JC002260.

should be widely communicated each year (or more frequently). For example, as a requirement to NOT reject the IPCC claim for global warming, Climate Science proposes that on the scale presented in Figure 3 in Willis et al, the left axis in their Figure 8 must exceed the following values in each year

2003 8*10**22 Joules
2004 9*10**22 Joules
2005 10*10**22 Joules
2006 11*10**22 Joules
2007 12*10**22 Joules
2008 13*10**22 Joules
2009 14*10**22 Joules
2010 15*10**22 Joules
2011 16*10**22 Joules
2012 17*10**22 Joules”

This is an accumulation of heat of 1 * 10**22 Joules per year. We now have data to assess what actually occurred in terms of this metric of global warming up through the end of 2008 (i.e. see the Figure in Pielke (2008),  Figure 1 in Willis et al (2008) and personal communication from Josh Willis to extend the data to the end of 2008).

The use of the ocean  heat content change as the most appropriate metric to diagnose global warming was reported in

Levitus, S., J.I. Antonov, J. Wang, T.L. Delworth, K.W. Dixon, and A.J. Broccoli, 2001: Anthropogenic warming of Earth’s climate system. Science, 292, 267-269


Pielke Sr., R.A., 2003: Heat storage within the Earth system. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 84, 331-335.

In a 2008 Climate Science weblog

Comparison of Model and Observations Of Upper Ocean Heat Content,

I wrote

“The conclusion in Hansen et al. 2005 that the “Earth is now absorbing 0.85 ± Watts per meter squared more energy from the Sun than it is emitting to space” is well supported by their modeling results for the ten years or so ending in 2003.”

With respect to the heating rate, in the paper

Hansen, J., L. Nazarenko, R. Ruedy, Mki. Sato, J. Willis, A. Del Genio, D. Koch, A. Lacis, K. Lo, S. Menon, T. Novakov, Ju. Perlwitz, G. Russell, G.A. Schmidt, and N. Tausnev, 2005: Earth’s energy imbalance: Confirmation and implications. Science, 308, 1431-1435, doi:10.1126/science.1110252,

they wrote

“Our climate model, driven mainly by increasing human-made greenhouse gases and aerosols among other forcings, calculates that Earth is now absorbing 0.85±0.15 W/m2 more energy from the Sun than it is emitting to space. This imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of increasing ocean heat content over the past 10 years.” 

See also the response by Jim Hansen to a comment by Christy and Pielke Sr [which Science refused to publish], where Hansen wrote me with respect to their GISS model predictions that

“Our simulated 1993-2003 heat storage rate was 0.6 W/m2 in the upper 750 m of the ocean.”

He further writes

“The decadal mean planetary energy imbalance, 0.75 W/m2, includes heat storage in the deeper ocean and energy used to melt ice and warm the air and land. 0.85 W/m2 is the imbalance at the end of the decade.”

Thus, the best estimate value of 0.60 Watts per meter squared given in Hansen et al can be used, as a conservative value, to calculate the heat change in Joules that should be expected in the upper ocean data from 2003 to the present, as an update to results reported on Climate Science on June 5 2008.

The observed best estimates of the observed heating and the Hansen et al prediction in Joules in the upper 700m of the ocean are given below:

OBSERVED BEST ESTIMATE OF ACCUMULATION Of JOULES [assuming a baseline of zero at the end of 2002].

2003 ~0 Joules
2004 ~0 Joules
2005 ~0 Joules
2006 ~0 Joules
2007 ~0 Joules
2008 ~0 Joules
2009 —— 
2010 —— 
2011 —— 
2012 ——     

HANSEN PREDICTION OF The ACCUMULATION OF JOULES [ at a rate of 0.60 Watts per meter squared] assuming a baseline of zero at the end of 2002].

2003 ~0.98 * 10** 22 Joules
2004 ~1.96 * 10** 22 Joules
2005 ~2.94 * 10** 22 Joules
2006 ~3.92 * 10** 22 Joules
2007 ~4.90 * 10** 22 Joules
2008 ~5.88 * 10** 22 Joules
2009 ~6.86 * 10** 22 Joules
2010 ~7.84 * 10** 22 Joules
2011 ~8.82 * 10** 22 Joules
2012 ~9.80 * 10** 22 Joules

Thus, according to the GISS model predictions, there should be approximately 5.88 * 10**22 Joules more heat in the upper 700 meters of the global ocean at the end of 2008 than were present at the beginning of 2003.

For the observations to come into agreement with the GISS model prediction by the end of 2012, for example, there would have to be an accumulation 9.8 * 10** 22 Joules of heat over just the next four years. This requires a heating rate over the next 4 years into the upper 700 meters of the ocean of 2.45 * 10**22 Joules per year, which corresponds to a radiative imbalance of ~1.50 Watts per square meter.

This rate of heating would have to be about 2 1/2 times higher than the 0.60 Watts per meter squared that Jim Hansen reported for the period 1993 to 2003.

While the time period for this descrepancy with the GISS model is relatively short, the question should be asked as to the number of years required to reject this model as having global warming predictive skill, if this large difference between the observations and the GISS model persists.




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ENSO Research by Kevin Trenberth

In response to an e-mail to Kevin Trenberth with respect to the Climate Science weblog

Kevin Trenberth on El Niño – A Tracking Of The Evolution Of His Perspective On This Issue Since 1997,

he graciously sent me a list of several papers that present his recent research on The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system. Since, as written in the earlier e-mail, he is one the pioneers in developing an improved understanding of El Niños, this documentation of his perspective is a valuable addition to Climate Science, in its goal to present all scientifically supported (i.e. peer reviewed) perspectives.

Trenberth, K. E., 2003: The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system. Chapter 14 of Handbook of Weather, Climate and Water: Climate, Physical Meteorology, Weather Systems and Measurements, Eds T. D. Potter and B. R. Coleman. J. Wiley & Sons. 163-173.

Trenberth, K. E., P. D. Jones, P. Ambenje, R. Bojariu, D. Easterling, A. Klein Tank, D. Parker, F. Rahimzadeh, J. A. Renwick, M. Rusticucci, B. Soden, P. Zhai 2007: Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change. In: Climate Change 2007. The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of WG 1 to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. C. Marquis, K. B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H. L. Miller (Eds.) Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, U. K., and New York, NY, USA, 235-336, plus annex online.

Trenberth, K. E., D. P. Stepaniak, and J. M. Caron 2002: Interannual variations in the atmospheric heat budget  J. Geophys. Res., 107, D8, 10.1029/2000JD000297.

Trenberth, K. E., J. M. Caron, D. P. Stepaniak, and S. Worley 2002: The evolution of ENSO and global atmospheric surface temperaturesJ. Geophys. Res., 107, D8, 10.1029/2000JD000298.

Trenberth, K. E., D. P. Stepaniak and L. Smith, 2005: Interannual variability of patterns of atmospheric mass distribution. J. Climate, 18, 2812-2825.

Trenberth, K. E., and L. Smith, 2006: The vertical structure of temperature in the tropics: Different flavors of El Nino. J. Clim., 19, 4956-4973.

Trenberth, K. E., and L. Smith, 2008: Variations in the three dimensional structure of the atmospheric circulation with different flavors of El Niño. J. Climate, in press.

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Additional New Research By Professor George Kallos Of The University Of Athens And Colleagues

Professor George Kallos has contributed very significantly to atmospheric and climate sciences. He is an internationally well respected colleague. Below are additional results from his important studies.

Mitsakou, C., G. Kallos, N. Papantoniou, C. Spyrou, S. Solomo,s M. Astitha, and C. Housiadas, 2008:: Saharan dust levels in Greece and received inhalation doses, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 8, 7181-7192.

The abstract reads

“The desert of Sahara is one of the major sources of mineral dust on Earth, producing around 2×108 tons/yr. Under certain weather conditions, dust particles from Saharan desert get transported over the Mediterranean Sea and most of Europe. The limiting values set by the directive EC/30/1999 of European Union can easily be exceeded by the transport of desert dust particles in the south European Region and especially in urban areas, where there is also significant contribution from anthropogenic sources. In this study, the effects of dust transport on air quality in several Greek urban areas are quantified. PM10 concentration values from stationary monitoring stations are compared to dust concentrations for the 4-year period 2003-2006. The dust concentration values in the Greek areas were estimated by the SKIRON modelling system coupled with embedded algorithms describing the dust cycle. The mean annual dust contribution to daily-averaged PM10 concentration values was found to be around or even greater than 10% in the urban areas throughout the years examined. Natural dust transport may contribute by more than 20% to the annual number of exceedances – PM10 values greater than EU limits – depending on the specific monitoring location. In a second stage of the study, the inhaled lung dose received by the residents in various Greek locations is calculated. The particle deposition efficiency of mineral dust at the different parts of the human respiratory tract is determined by applying a lung dosimetry numerical model, which incorporates inhalation dynamics and aerosol physical processes. The inhalation dose from mineral dust particles was greater in the upper respiratory system (extrathoracic region) and less significant in the lungs, especially in the sensitive alveolar region. However, in cases of dust episodes, the amounts of mineral dust deposited along the human lung are comparable to those received during exposure in heavily polluted urban or smoking areas.”

Astitha, M., and G. Kallos, 2008: Gas-phase and aerosol chemistry interactions in South Europe and the Mediterranean Region. Special Issue on “Physics-Chemistry Interactions from the Air Quality Perspective” Env. Fluid Mechanics, DOI 10.1007/s10652-008-9110-7

The abstract reads

“The atmospheric chemical composition is affected by the interactionmechanisms among gases and particulate matter through a wide range of chemical reactions that can occur with the aid of particulate matter (e.g. particles act as reacting or absorbing surfaces) or be influenced by the presence of particulate matter in the atmosphere (photochemical reactions). Physical and chemical processes are also bonded in an interactive way that often leads to the influence of the radiation budget, cloud physics and the warming or cooling of the lower atmospheric levels. The Euro-Mediterranean region is a key-sensitive area due to the unique climatic and air quality characteristics associated with the regional climatic patterns, geomorphology (land and water contrast) and coexistence of pollutants from different origin. Focusing on this region, the gas-aerosol interactions are studied using state-of-the-art atmospheric and chemical transport modeling tools following the necessary development in the chemical transport model CAMx. Sensitivity and large-scale simulations have shown significant responses of the modeling system to the inclusion of natural species emissions, the direct shading effect of dust particles on photochemical processes and the formation of new types of aerosols through heterogeneous uptake of gases on dust particles. Including such interactions in the chemical transport model often led to the improvement of the model performance compared with available measurements in the region.”

Louka, P., G. Galanis, N. Siebert, G. Kariniotakis, P. Katsafados, G. Kallos, and I. Pytharoulis, 2007: Improvements in wind speed forecasts for wind power prediction purposes using Kalman filtering. Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics- Elsevier. 96, 2348– 2362.

The abstract reads

“This paper studies the application of Kalman filtering as a postprocessing method in numerical predictions of wind speed. Two limited-area atmospheric models have been employed, with different options/capabilities of horizontal resolution, to provide wind speed forecasts. The application of Kalman filter to these data leads to the elimination of any possible systematic errors, even in the lower resolution cases, contributing further to the significant reduction of the required CPU time. The potential of this method in wind power applications is also exploited. In particular, in the case of wind power prediction, the results obtained showed a remarkable improvement in the model forecasting skill.”

Also view the following posters:




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