Transatlantic Flights Getting More Turbulent

Transatlantic flights are getting more turbulent thanks to climate change. The revelation was made by scientists in a new study about turbulence in flights across the Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists have found that planes are already encountering stronger winds on their treks over the ocean. But those winds could soon translate to more turbulence.

Reading’s D. Paul Williams stated that comfort of passengers isn’t the only problem that comes with turbulence. Bumpier airspace can also cause a financial toll. Williams explained:

“It’s certainly plausible that if flights get diverted more to fly around turbulence rather than through it then the amount of fuel that needs to be burnt will increase.”

If fuel consumption increases, plane tickets could also raise in price. Using a computer simulation, Williams and Dr. Manoj Joshi from the University of East Anglia simulated likely changes to air currents above 10km in altitude.

The simulation involves the fast-moving jet stream, which may be blowing more strongly than before. Some scenarios show that the stream could be prone to more of the instabilities associated with turbulence as climate change gains strength.

It’s possible that Transatlantic flights will see a drastic increase in turbulence. Strength of turbulence could increase between 10 and 40 percent, while frequency could jump between 40 and 170 percent.

The increase would likely affect most, if not all, of the approximately 600 flights a day between Europe and North America. For the simulation, scientists simulated a world where carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was twice pre-industrial levels. Pre-industrial levels are about 278 parts per million. There are currently about 396 parts per million, according to recent measurements.

The researchers have already detected heavier turbulence during recent years, mostly above the 50 degrees North latitude, which passes through Canada and southern England. Sixty-one percent of winter flights fly above this latitude. The researchers wrote, “We conclude that climate change will lead to bumpier transatlantic flights by the middle of this century, assuming the same flight tracks are used.”

Will greater turbulence on transatlantic flights make you nervous to fly?

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