Aircraft

Climate change may give air travellers a bumpier ride

Climate change may give air tr...
Climate change could increase severe atmospheric turbulence by 149 percent
Climate change could increase severe atmospheric turbulence by 149 percent
View 1 Image
Climate change could increase severe atmospheric turbulence by 149 percent
1/1
Climate change could increase severe atmospheric turbulence by 149 percent

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.

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

4 comments
DFrancis
Maybe it'll have the benefit of discouraging folks from flying. The IAP have previously researched the effects of contrails, their conclusion being that contrails can interfere with the natural formation of cumulus. I long for the return of the clear skies of a few years ago when E15 in Iceland grounded air traffic over Europe.
aksdad
The supercomputer simulation has replaced sheep entrails as the tool of the modern doomsayers but the skill at predicting the future hasn't improved; it's just a wild guess calculated to appeal to the customers. IPCC AR5, the Bible of climate change science, notes that "because the climate system is inherently nonlinear and chaotic, predictability of the climate system is inherently limited." In other words, GIGO. I think Dr. Paul Williams is making a play for Caleb Weatherbee's job at the Farmer's Almanac.
Bob
A little more detail would have been nice. It's a little thing called relative humidity. Warmer air will hold more moisture and more moisture means more rain and snow. As water vapor changes to liquid and ice a huge transfer of heat energy takes place. More rain means more storms and turbulence while more snow means more white ground cover that will reflect sunlight back out into space. While the pendulum may swing toward a warmer earth for a while, it will swing back the other way sometime in the future. While seldom mentioned, the heat of fusion of water and heat of vaporization are two of the most powerful forces on earth. Water is also the most powerful solvent there is. While CO2 gets most of the publicity, it is a minor actor in climate but a major player in the life cycle.
ljaques
OH, NO! CO2 is up and WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE. Oh, wait. That's put out by the AGWK crew, who haven't had a valid score with their (electronic sheep guts) prognostications in decades. Never mind.