journal article

Coastal horizontal wind speed gradients in the North Sea based on observations and ERA5 reanalysis data


The transition from land to sea affects the wind field in coastal regions. From the perspective of near-coastal offshore wind farms, the coastal transition complicates the task of energy resource assessment by, for example, introducing non-homogeneity into the free wind field. To help elucidate the matter, we quantify the average horizontal wind speed gradients at progressively increasing distances from the German coast using two years of hourly ERA5 reanalysis data, and further describe the dependence of wind speed gradients on the measurement height, atmospheric stability, and season. A vertical wind lidar located on Norderney Island near the German mainland acts as our observational reference for the ERA5 data, where a good agreement ( R 2 = 0 . 9 3 $R^2 =\nobreak 0.93$ ) is found despite the relatively coarse ERA5 data resolution. Interestingly, the comparison of lidar data with the higher-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale model yields good but relatively weaker agreement ( R 2 = 0 . 8 5 $R^2 =\nobreak 0.85$ ). The ERA5 data reveal that, for flow over the North Sea originating from the German mainland from the south, the wind speed at 10 m (110 m) above sea level increases by 30 % (20 %) some 80 km from the coast on average, and by 5 % at larger heights. An increased stratification increases the horizontal wind speed gradient at 10 m above sea level but decreases it at 110 m. Case studies using satellite and flight measurements are first analyzed to help reveal some of the underlying mechanisms governing horizontal wind speed gradients, including cases of decreasing wind speed with increasing distance from the coast, in which stable flow of warm air over the colder sea leads to an overall deceleration of the flow. The accuracy of offshore resource assessment appears to profit from utilising the horizontal wind speed gradient information contained in ERA5 reanalysis data.
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