The Bjerknes Centre is a collaboration on climate research, between the University of Bergen, NORCE, the Institute of Marine Research, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre.

Seminar talk: Can large-scale solar and wind farms create a significant climate change? A model experiment in the Sahara

On June 11, Eugenia Kalnay from University of Maryland will give a seminar talk

Kalnay portrett
Eugenia Kalnay

Short biography:

Eugenia Kalnay was Branch Head at NASA Goddard, and later the Director of the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP, formerly NMC), National Weather Service (NWS) from 1987 to 1997. During those ten years there were major improvements in the NWS models' forecast skill. Many successful projects such as the 60+years NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis (the paper on this Reanalysis has been cited over 10,000 times), seasonal and interannual dynamical predictions, the first operational ensemble forecasting, 3-D and 4-D variational data assimilation, advanced quality control, and coastal ocean forecasting. EMC became a pioneer in both the fundamental science and the practical applications of numerical weather prediction.




Wind and solar farms offer a major pathway to clean, renewable energy. However, these farms would change the land surface properties, and, hence may lead to unintended climate changes. We used a climate model with dynamic vegetation and show that large-scale installations of wind and solar farms lead to a local temperature increase, and more than a two-fold precipitation increase, especially in the Sahel, through increased surface friction and decreased albedo. The resulting increase in vegetation further increases precipitation, creating a positive albedo-precipitation-vegetation feedback that contributes ~80% of the precipitation increase for the wind farms. This local enhancement is scale dependent and is particular to the Sahara, with smaller impacts in other deserts. The wind and solar panels would generate ~3TW and 79TW of electric power/year respectively, compared with the total human energy consumption of 18 TW/year, allowing to address climate change.


This paper was downloaded from Science more than 100K times over the two weeks it was open access, and Altmetric found it to be one of the top 100 scientific (including medical) papers published in 2018.


Arranged date for the seminar talk: Jun 11, 2019