Climate change will make flights bumpier, study says

A new study predicts that global warming will result in bumpier transatlantic flights.
(Marcus Brandt / AFP/Getty Images)
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In the future, white-knuckle fliers may be able to blame those brutally bumpy flights over the Atlantic Ocean on greenhouse gases.

Turbulence will be stronger and occur more often if carbon dioxide emissions double by 2050, heating up the atmosphere, according to a study by British scientists published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Turbulence is created by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts or thunderstorms, among other conditions. Severe turbulence is responsible for an average of 58 passenger injuries a year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Between 1980 and 2008, 298 passengers on U.S. airlines were injured and three died because of turbulence accidents, the agency said.


The study by scientists at the universities of Reading and East Anglia said the chances of running into turbulence over the Atlantic will increase 40% to 170% by the middle of the century, with turbulence strength increasing by 10% to 40%.

In fact, turbulence may already be worse because of climate change, and emissions from airlines are a big contributor, the study said.

“Aviation is partly responsible for changing the climate,” the study said. “But our findings show for the first time how climate change could affect aviation.”


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