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My basic knowledge of wind patterns are that they blow from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure.

I want to put large mirrors in space to reflect sunlight constantly onto Peru and Vietnam/Cambodia (antipodes) with the intention of causing a reliable and constant source of wind power. I believe 24/7 localised heating over an area the size of a country would set up such a scenario.

Is it feasible and what other global environmental effects can be anticpated?

To restrict the scope of the question I am not interested in the mechanisms for maintaining the positions of the reflectors, the possibility of hijack and weaponizing it, local devastation to the sites of the heating, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ Just as a thought: High in the air there's already fairly regular wind patterns. You can look at global jetstreams, like the polar and tropical jets, which have two of each. Would that already satisfy a reliable global wind pattern for your worldbuilding needs? Or is a new one as described in the title your true goal? $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ Wind is also caused by the Earth rotation, which is stable in itself, but the long streams end up bouncing on the mountain creating localised swirl and eddies. The problem would remain at low altitudes. $\endgroup$
    – FluidCode
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ Trioxidane - I want sea level wind patterns to stabilize as it is much easier to harness than high altitude. $\endgroup$
    – Hukk2010
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ FluidCode - Short of leveling everything then that will always remain a problem, but my hope is there will be increased, stable wind patterns between obstacles that will improve our ability to capture wind power reliably. $\endgroup$
    – Hukk2010
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 7:31

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The concept is totally feasible.

It does come with some disadvantages, like:

  • The needed size of the installation. The "large" in your "large space mirrors" would have to be several thousand square kilometers. Ideally in the 1 million square kilometers range. This might be a bit expensive.
  • You will be adding some extra heat to the Earth. Not much, only as much as a few thousand volcanoes, or as much energy output as 37400 city of new York. This might lead to some disruption of climate as a whole (which is your goal, of course!) The total is not so bad though, you are adding only about 1/128th as much sunlight energy as the Earth normally receives.
  • Your altered wind patterns will be somewhat local to the heated regions. Say a surface area 20 times as large as the hotspot, thus only maybe 2000km around each hotspot. To affect the whole globe, you would need sevral such hotspots. Dozens, even.

P.s. You might have better results heating the ocean, not a landmass.
Localized heating of ocean will cause a lot more clouds to form, and these will persist for days, reflecting the incoming natural sunlight. They will create long downwind zones of significantly reduced surface heating, both offsetting your increased heat input and actually cooling the Earth further. This should have a greater effect on wind patterns than just heating a landmass.

P.p.s. There are other, much less expensive ways to make massive cloud seeding.
Stuff like this fleet of cloud-seeding ships on the ocean.: https://physicsworld.com/a/cloud-seeding-ships-could-combat-climate-change/
It will definitely be less expensive than orbiting deathray mirror arrays of sufficient size.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting - I wasn't expecting the result to be so localised though. We currently have two poles and the equator (and a spinning earth) so I thought adding two new poles would completely restructure and strengthen the global pattern. $\endgroup$
    – Hukk2010
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Hukk2010 the current cold poles do not have trade winds and jetstreams barreling across them, the natural winds circle them, greatly amplifying their isolation. Your hotspots will have to resist and overpower the current strong wind patterns. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 20:27
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TLDR. No, just no.

Long story short

Sorry, the concept is totally not feasable.

Global wind patterns arise from two 'primary' drivers and are influenced by many others.

  • The temperature difference between the poles and the equator. In a non-rotating world this would lead to meridonal convective heat transfer via the ocean/atmosphere system.

  • Coriolis pseudo-forces introduced onto this transport by the earth's rotation that deflect it.

You are suggesting introducing significant heat sources at mid-latitudes. (East & West poles?)

This would have the effect of:

  1. Completely changing the climate under the area of effect
  2. Completely reorganising global wind and ocean current patterns
  3. Accelerating global warming

The environmental impact would be catastrophic.

At this time we do not harvest a significant fraction of the energy available from insolation. AFIK the primary reasons for this (other than Big Energy doing all they can to slow it down) are the time it takes to roll out capture capacity on a global scale and the shortage of suitable locations for our present capture and distribution technology.

I have made these assertions based on my own knowledge as a lecturer in meteorology and Director of an Ocean/Atmosphere Research facility without references. I'll be back to add references in the next couple of days.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. My thinking was having two cold poles and two hot poles would increase the strength of the winds and settle wind patterns into a more stable pattern - albeit completely different to now. $\endgroup$
    – Hukk2010
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ Re. climate change the extra heat should be quite small and the idea of stronger, stable winds should encourage a massive increase in capture technology with less need for storage. Would the resultant reduction in fossil fuels not mitigate the GW effect? $\endgroup$
    – Hukk2010
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Hukk2010: If the added heat is small then the winds will also be small. The question wants global winds, so the added heat needs to be not small at all. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ Umm, make up you mind please. either "Sorry, the concept is totally not feasable." or "Completely reorganising global wind and ocean current patterns".... because those two statements of yours are contradictory, and the second statement is *******exactly******* what the OP is asking for. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Hukk20, on the question of 'poles' the earth has two cold poles which are spots (N/S poles) and one hot pole which is a strip (the equator). Mathematically this is also a pole. This leads to a possible solution that is the inverse of the one you suggest. Rather than adding additional heat one could add additional cooling by installing a couple of ENORMOUS lasers at the poles to pump heat out (handwave technology). Also useful for space travel. $\endgroup$
    – pHred
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 0:38

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