Like an inversion of J.G. Ballard’s first novel, The Wind From Nowhere – in which winds blow to hurricane strength around the world, flattening cities, decimating civilization, and making readers wonder why the book wasn’t simply written as a short story – it seems that winds across the continental U.S. are slowing down.
As The New York Times reports, “wind speeds in the United States have dropped 15 to 30 percent over the course of about 30 years.” There is absolutely no reason to assume that this trend will continue at the same pace – but, should it, the winds of America would come to a stand-still within just four or five generations.
One of the suspected reasons behind this atmospheric deceleration is climate change, the NYT explains:
As polar regions warm faster than the Equator… the temperature difference between them – and the pressure differential – shrinks. And, lower pressure differences mean slower winds.
Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising, meanwhile, that, “in scattered pockets of the country, wind speeds have risen.” These sorts of changes are rarely homogenous: a cooling trend in one spot is matched by a warming trend in another; the death of breezes in one location is counteracted by increased number of hurricanes elsewhere.
Nonetheless, how interesting to speculate what might happen if the atmosphere gradually did fail, falling still, forming the aerial equivalent of a glacier: hazy and unmoving, polluted and heavy, a kind of anti-hurricane with no less deadly effects in the long term. Certain plants would no longer pollinate. International travel, by both sea and air, would become unpredictable. The use of fossil fuels would skyrocket.
I do wonder, then, if Ballard, given another few years in which to write, might have tried out this kind of anti-storm scenario, describing a world without aerial movement. The death of the sky.