Dear Mr. Del Signore:
I must first preface my comments by saying that I am somewhat of an agnostic regarding this whole global warming issue. While I believe the problem is real, I am still not convinced of it’s seriousness or whether we can realistically do anything to stop it. Nor am I a blind faith-based global warming denier. So, I will stick to the particulars of the theory you have proffered.
Your explanation of what causes wind and how it works is largely correct, in that the energy in the wind comes entirely from the sun, as the sun sets up convection currents between warm and cool areas on the earth’s surface. The kinetic energy in the wind eventually dissipates in the form of low-level heat as the result of friction effects when the wind comes in contact with the irregular surface of the earth (and to a lesser degree, as the result of turbulence within the wind stream itself). Because the sun continues to shine and continues to set up convection currents, a steady state is achieved, which is why the wind continues to blow.
Now, here are several areas where I think you run astray in your theory that wind turbines act to slow the rotation of the earth.
First off, even if wind power were built out to some total conceivable maximum, the combined swept area of all the wind turbines would represent but a tiny fraction of a percent of the total area of all the obstacles on the surface of the earth that the wind would normally encounter. Furthermore, as the rate of global deforestation continues to increase, we are very likely decreasing the amount of obstacles to the free flow of wind, despite the building of wind turbines. In other words, for every wind turbine built, there are probably thousands of trees over a hundred feet high that have been cut down, thus providing a smoother path for the wind than it had when the trees were still standing.
Second (and this is far more subtle), being that the earth is a rotating sphere, and the wind a fluid moving on the surface of that sphere, the motion of the wind is far from uniform and takes on the form of distinct circular patterns (e.g., the ‘trade winds’ etc.) that interact with each other in complex ways. Thus, for every unit of wind-induced momentum transfered to the earth in the direction of the earth’s rotation, there is somewhere on the earth’s surface an equal amount of wind-induced momentum transferred in the direction opposite to the earth’s rotation. It can probably be mathematically proven that these have to cancel out (just don’t ask me to do it), and result in no net transfer of momentum to the earth.
Anyway, it’s a very interesting theory. You ought to look into it further, as I strongly suspect that somewhere in the geophysical literature someone somewhere has analyzed just this sort of thing.
Sorry, Edmund, but I’m going to take a page from the Liberal Handbook and stick with my theory despite all the facts and evidence to the contrary.
It’s new world of hope and change and I’m going to be a good citizen and get with the program. I’m going to hope the laws of nature will change so I can be right.
And even if they don’t, perhaps I can get my congresscritter to introduce new legislation revising the relevant natural laws so my theory will be correct.
I mean, if they can revise the “natural laws” of economics and business and banking, why not those of other inconvenient things like physics?
Thanks for writing.