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Climate change to blame for bumpier aircraft flights: scientists

09 April, 2013

Flights will become bumpier as global warming destabilises air currents at altitudes used by commercial airliners, climate scientists warn.

Already, atmospheric turbulence injures hundreds of airline passengers each year, sometimes fatally, damaging aircraft and costing the industry an estimated $US150 million ($A145 million), scientists say.
"Climate change is not just warming the Earth's surface, it is also changing the atmospheric winds 10 kilometres high, where planes fly," said study co-author Paul Williams of the University of Reading's National Centre for Atmospheric Science in southeastern England.
"That is making the atmosphere more vulnerable to the instability that creates clear-air turbulence.
"Our research suggests that we'll be seeing the 'fasten seatbelts' sign turned on more often in the decades ahead."
Turbulence is mainly caused by vertical airflow — up-draughts and down-draughts near clouds and thunderstorms.
Clear-air turbulence, which is not visible to the naked eye and cannot be picked up by satellite or traditional radar, is linked to atmospheric jet streams, which are projected to strengthen with climate change.
"Turbulence strong enough to make walking difficult and to dislodge unsecured objects is likely to become twice as common in transatlantic airspace by the middle of this century," said Williams.
Williams said CO2 caused non-uniform warming, which increased the jet stream winds.
"A stronger jet stream means the atmosphere is less stable, which creates more turbulence," he explained.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said planes already spent about one per cent of their cruise time in strong clear-air turbulence.
Frequent flyers had reported bumpiness to be on the rise, but this was the first study to actually measure the projected impact of climate change, said the authors.
"Flight paths may need to become more convoluted to avoid patches of turbulence that are stronger and more frequent, in which journey times will lengthen and fuel consumption and emissions will increase," they wrote.
"Aviation is partly responsible for changing the climate in the first place," added Williams.
"It is ironic that the climate looks set to exact its revenge by creating a more turbulent atmosphere for flying."
Source: AAP

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John | Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 10:46 AM
What Crap, total alarmists. Focus on anything and it becomes a problem.
Robin Mark | Monday, April 15, 2013, 11:20 AM
Does this mean the sky really is falling??
LSA | Monday, April 15, 2013, 1:06 PM
What a lot of rubbish. Have measurements been taken with transducers to establish proper readings and data over a period of time or is that a prediction without any scientific data to back it up?
Robin Mark | Monday, April 15, 2013, 1:41 PM
Hey LSA, it is all true. People had a bumpy ride, there's your proof. Just like we know there is global warming because summer was, well, hot. Ya know?
Toscamaster | Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 11:22 AM
Oh the deceit revealed by Prof Williams’ itchy palm. To the British Chancellor of the Exchequer - BEWARE. This man and his co-authors are coming to raid your piggy bank through bogus applications for grants. ASK FOR ANY HARD REAL WORLD EVIDENCE. I’ll warrant that there is none. Computer modelling is NOT hard evidence. While I mam at it let no Australian so-called climate scientist jump on this band wagon. Williams and his like demean real evidence-based scientific research.
Robin Mark | Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 4:38 PM
From the same think tank, further breathless announcements: climate change causing bigger waves, surfers frightened (this verified by the fact more people have fallen off their boards at Bondi Beach this year than in the last 2 years!!) Also, climate change blamed for cows not giving creamy milk. Joe the farmer reported his cows were looking too sleepy due to the overcast skies.
Goldie | Monday, April 22, 2013, 12:53 PM
I have heard that push bikers are complaining of stronger headwinds and are even more filthy at car drivers than usual as the global warming they are creating is responsible for it. They also report an increase in pot holing which is causing many crashes with injuries and damaged lycra. They say this is due to extreme heat and rogue winds all caused by thoughtless 4x4 owners and their gas guzzling, mind of their own chariots.
Robin Mark | Monday, April 22, 2013, 1:22 PM
news just in on this incredible topic....... garbage collectors are demanding higher wages as the change in climate is making the rubbish decay quicker and is smelly
dave d | Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 3:33 PM
C'mon guys - something tells me that you're not taking this too seriously - they say "Clear-air turbulence, which is not visible to the naked eye and cannot be picked up by satellite or traditional radar," so they have to take all this trouble & go collect this stuff by hand in an empty Jam Jar and you lot take p*** out of them -now that's not fair !!