If you don't like hitting turbulence when you're flying (and who does?), then you're not going to like the conclusions of a study recently conducted by Dr. Paul Williams at the University of Reading. If his supercomputer simulations are anything to go by, climate change will cause a major increase in severe turbulence – enough so that new flight routes may have to be developed.
The simulations were designed to calculate the manner in which wintertime transatlantic clear-air turbulence will change at an altitude of around 12 km (39,000 ft), once there's twice as much carbon dioxide in the air. That doubling of CO2 is predicted to occur later this century.
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The resulting climate change should reportedly generate stronger wind shears within the jet stream, leading to instability and increased turbulence. Just how much of an increase are we talking about, though? According to the university, "The average amount of light turbulence in the atmosphere will increase by 59 percent, with light-to-moderate turbulence increasing by 75 percent, moderate by 94 percent, moderate-to-severe by 127 percent, and severe by 149 percent."
"My top priority for the future is to investigate other flight routes around the world," says Williams. "We also need to investigate the altitude and seasonal dependence of the changes, and to analyze different climate models and warming scenarios to quantify the uncertainties."
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
Source: Institute of Atmospheric Physics