Air travel has become more of a bumpy ride over the last 40 years due to climate change, reveals new research.
Potentially catastrophic aviation turbulence strengthened as the world warmed from 1979 to 2020, according to the study.
And transatlantic flights are among the worst affected, say scientists.
The study by University of Reading researchers shows that clear-air turbulence – which is invisible and hazardous to aircraft – has increased in various regions around the world over the last four decades.
At a typical point over the North Atlantic – one of the world’s busiest air routes – the total annual duration of severe turbulence increased by 55 percent from just 17.7 hours in 1979 to 27.4 hours in 2020.
Moderate turbulence increased by 37 percent from 70.0 to 96.1 hours, and light turbulence increased by 17 percent from 466.5 to 546.8 hours, according to the findings published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The Reading University team say the increases are “consistent” with the effects of climate change.
They explained that warmer air from CO2 emissions is increasing wind shear in the jet streams, strengthening clear-air turbulence in the North Atlantic and worldwide.
Ph.D. researcher Mark Prosser said: “Turbulence makes flights bumpy and can occasionally be dangerous.
“Airlines will need to start thinking about how they will manage the increased turbulence, as it costs the industry $150 million to –$500m annually in the USA alone.
“Every additional minute spent traveling through turbulence increases wear-and-tear on the aircraft, as well as the risk of injuries to passengers and flight attendants.”
While the USA and North Atlantic have experienced the largest increases, the new study found that other busy flight routes over Europe, the Middle East, and the South Atlantic also saw significant increases in turbulence.
Study co-author Professor Paul Williams added: “Following a decade of research showing that climate change will increase clear-air turbulence in the future, we now have evidence suggesting that the increase has already begun.
“We should be investing in improved turbulence forecasting and detection systems, to prevent the rougher air from translating into bumpier flights in the coming decades.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Saba Fatima and Newsdesk Manager
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