How global warming is creating more turbulence on flights

How Climate Change Is Increasing Turbulence During Flights

Global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels is affecting the atmosphere and influencing winds at varying altitudes. This increased turbulence during flights poses a potential threat to passengers and the aviation industry. Research shows that atmospheric dynamics have changed significantly since scientists first observed them via satellite data in the late 1970s. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind turbulence and how climate change is influencing air travel.

Is global warming causing more turbulence during flights?

According to Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, global warming is causing more turbulence on busy aviation routes over the North Atlantic. Williams co-authored a research paper in 2019 that found a 15 percent increase in wind shear, which is the degree to which wind speeds vary at different altitudes, since 1979. This increase in wind shear creates atmospheric disturbances that lead to more turbulence during flights.

How is turbulence affecting flights more often?

It’s harder to determine whether turbulence is affecting flights more often based on available data. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tracks serious injuries from flight turbulence, but there is no clear trend in its data. Turbulence accounted for 37.6 percent of all accidents on large commercial airlines from 2009 through 2018, according to a 2021 National Transportation Safety Board report. The FAA reported 122 serious injuries resulting from turbulence during the same period. While incidents of turbulence on flights aren’t formally tracked, research shows that climate change is making clear air turbulence more common.

Why are flights encountering turbulence unexpectedly?

The atmospheric dynamics linked to turbulence, and that climate change is making more common, mean that airplanes don’t need to be flying through a cloud or near a storm to experience bumpy air. Clear air turbulence, which is invisible to radar and the naked eye, is becoming more common. Flights increasingly experience clear air turbulence, which is harder to forecast and route around compared to storm-related turbulence risks. The aviation industry is working to improve understanding and prediction of clear air turbulence.

How dangerous is turbulence during flights?

Depending on the severity of turbulence, injuries can be significant, but they are underreported. This is because anything short of a two-day hospital stay is not counted in FAA statistics. While severe turbulence is alarming, it is not likely to cause a crash, according to experts. However, the aviation industry must take steps to minimize turbulence risks and improve communication around turbulence risks to ensure passenger safety.

Conclusion

Climate change is creating more turbulence during flights, and this poses a potential threat to passenger safety and the aviation industry. While severe turbulence is not likely to cause a crash, it can lead to significant injuries. The aviation industry must take steps to minimize turbulence risks and improve communication around turbulence risks to ensure passenger safety. Researchers and the aviation industry must continue working to improve understanding and prediction of clear air turbulence, which is becoming more common due to climate change.