Study: Climate Change To Cause Serious Uptick In Severe Airplane Turbulence

READING, England — Not a fan of bumpy flights? You may want to boost your efforts to help the environment. A recent study predicting turbulence levels as the climate warms found that rocky flights will double or even triple in the future due to climate change.

The study, conducted at the University of Reading in England was the first of its kind to predict changes in airplane turbulence due to climate change.

Airplane wing during flight
Fly often, but not a fan of rocky flights? You may want to consider doing your part to aid the environment if the results of a recent study are correct.  (Photo by Ross Parmly on Unsplash)

“Our new study paints the most detailed picture yet of how aircraft turbulence will respond to climate change,” says lead researcher Dr. Paul Williams in a press release.

Dr. Williams and his team theorized that the increased turbulence is caused by stronger wind shears within the jet stream. These shears can be unstable and cause random vertical movements that are stronger than gravity.

The researchers used supercomputer simulations of the atmosphere as the planet warms over time to calculate changes in wintertime, transatlantic, clear-air turbulence at an altitude of about 39,000 feet. Researchers simulated the turbulence of aircraft in this zone when the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is doubled, as is expected to occur later this century.

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Results revealed that the average amount of light turbulence will increase by 59%. Light-to-moderate turbulence will increase by 75%, moderate  by 94%, moderate-to-severe by 127%, and, perhaps most alarmingly, the most severe and rockiest rides by 149%.

“For most passengers, light turbulence is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience that reduces their comfort levels, but for nervous fliers even light turbulence can be distressing,” he adds. “However, even the most seasoned frequent fliers may be alarmed at the prospect of a 149% increase in severe turbulence, which frequently hospitalizes air travellers and flight attendants around the world.”

Williams plans to investigate the effects on more flights across the globe and examine how the results may differ during other seasons and altitudes.

The study was published earlier this year in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

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