Climate Change Leads to More Severe Turbulence

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More turbulence caused by climate change: passengers could be shaken during plane rides more often than before, at least on some routes, and even in cloudless skies. A report by Germany’s Handelsblatt.

Berlin, Germany. The airplane shakes, the seat is loose, the fasten seat belt sign lights up: turbulence during air travel could be more frequent and more violent in the future due to climate change. This is what British researchers report in the journal “Nature Climate Change” to be published this coming Monday.

“Our results suggest that climate change will lead to rough, mid 21st century transatlantic flights”, Paul Williams (University of Reading) and Manoj Joshi (University of East Anglia, Norwich) write.

The researchers here refer primarily to so-called “clear-air” turbulence, i.e. turbulence that occurs during cloudless skies. Unlike turbulence in the vicinity of thunderstorms, this type of turbulence can hardly be predicted. This is caused by opposing wind currents that can jerk even large airplanes up and down. For that same reason, this “clean air turbulence” is sometimes also referred to as “air holes.”

In their analysis, the researchers have limited themselves to the flight zone over the northern half of the North Atlantic during the December to February winter months. Using climate model simulations, they calculate that, within the next 40 years, turbulence in that area could be more common by a factor of 40 to 170 percent. Additionally, the same turbulence could be 10 to 40 percent more violent.

If, in the future, the “clear-air” turbulence were to occur as frequently as predicted, it could have a substantial impact on air transport according to researchers: pilots would be forced to fly around the affected areas in order to reduce the likelihood of turbulence. This would increase fuel consumption and air travel may take longer could, as the researchers note.

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April 09, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

Dom Einhorn is a proud Alsatian interested in a wide variety of subject matter, from literature and politics to science and sports. He speaks 5 languages fluently and calls both Wyoming and France "home." Dom is also a trivia fanatic and the editor of