Climate Change Will Worsen Turbulence On Planes, Study Says

Posted: Apr 8 2017, 4:55am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 8 2017, 5:07am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Climate Change will Worsen Turbulence on Planes, Study Says
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Passengers will experience severe flight turbulence as carbon dioxide levels increase in the atmosphere

Climate change is likely to make air travel a lot bumpier. According to a latest research, flight turbulence that could toss passengers around the plane if they do not fasten their seatbelts, will become twice or even three times as common due to changing climate. As up and down and side to side jolts become increasingly common, the risk of injuries will also go up.

This is the first study to examine the future of severe turbulence in response to climate change and it finds an increase in turbulence across all the levels, from light to extreme. The average light turbulence is estimated to increase by 59%, with light to moderate turbulence increasing by 75 percent, moderate by 94 percent, moderate-to-severe by 127 percent and severe by 149 percent. As more carbon dioxide penetrates in atmosphere, it generates stronger, more unstable winds and these unstable winds are a major cause of turbulence on flights.

“Our new study paints the most detailed picture yet of how aircraft turbulence will respond to climate change. 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,” said researcher Dr Paul Williams from University of Reading, UK.

“However, even the most seasoned frequent fliers may be alarmed at the prospect of a 149% increase in severe turbulence, which frequently hospitalizes air travelers and flight attendants around the world.”

Bumps and jolts can make air travel increasingly annoying and uncomfortable. According to some estimates, as many as 25 percent of all Americans have some fear of flying because there is no control and no way out.

There are 790 turbulence encounters annually for scheduled United States carriers that result in 687 minor and 38 serious injuries to flight attendants and 120 minor injuries and 17 serious injuries to passengers. However, the actual rates are probably much higher because of under-reporting and many other reasons. However, turbulence is estimated to cost as much as US$200 million annually for United States carriers alone. More turbulence means more injuries and more financial losses.

Researchers used computer simulations of the atmosphere to examine different wind related characteristics including wind speeds and change in flow direction that contribute to turbulence levels and estimated how winds at an altitude of around 39,0000 feet will be affected by the twice as much increase in carbon dioxide concentrations later this century.

“These results suggest that the prevalence of transatlantic wintertime clear-air turbulence will increase significantly in all aviation-relevant strength categories as the climate changes.” Study concludes.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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