The most arid parts of the Sahara receive one inch of rain a year. Can you imagine the changes if the same region received six-inches of rain? It would be transformative, making thousands of miles of empty sand dunes currently not habitable, completely livable. It would be the place of cities and massive vegetative farms.
A new climate-modeling study predicts installing massive fields of wind turbines and solar panels in the Sahara desert could produce as much as six inches of rain annually across the region and make vegetation possible.
Scientists predict that when sufficiently large arrays of wind turbines and solar panels are installed, their presence could change the reflectivity of the land and movement of air currents. The way it works is that wind
farms mix warmer air from above with cooler currents lower down, and solar panels prevent sunlight from being reflected back into the atmosphere. According to Eugenia Kalnay, co-author of the study, “The rainfall increase is a consequence of complex land-atmosphere interactions that occur because solar panels and wind turbines create rougher and darker land surfaces.”
Installations of large-scale wind and solar farms have the power to supply the world with an immense amount of energy and climate change on a “continental scale” said lead author Yan Li. A barren terrain of 5.6 million million miles has the potential to produce – every year – four times over the 18 terawatts currently used.
There is the law of unintended consequences though and climate change on a continental scale needs a lot more scientific modeling. But, good grief, this is exciting stuff.