Increased C02 emissions could lead to more clear air turbulence during transatlantic flights

April 8th, 2013 by Nature Climate Change

A high altitude jet airliner flying over Guernsey on 22 October 2011 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

A high altitude jet airliner flying over Guernsey on 22 October 2011 (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

Climate change may lead to bumpier transatlantic flights by the middle of the 21st century, suggests work published in the letter “Intensification of winter transatlantic aviation turbulence in response to climate change‘ in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study reports that clear-air turbulence is likely to change significantly with the doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels, which is expected in the next 40 years.

Dr Paul Williams from the University of Reading and Dr Manoj Joshi from the University of East Anglia‘s School of Environmental Sciences used climate simulations to investigate changing conditions in the transatlantic flight corridor in response to carbon dioxide levels.

Clear-air turbulence is linked to atmospheric jet streams, which are projected to strengthen with climate change.

They calculate that at cruise altitudes in wintertime, there will be an increase of 10–40% in the average strength of turbulence, and a 40–170% increase in the frequency of moderate-or-greater turbulence.

The authors note that increased turbulence could increase journey times due to re-routing requirements, increase fuel consumption, and lead to a concomitant increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

 

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