Expect More In-Flight Turbulence Thanks To Climate Change

by Chris Dong

According to researchers, climate change’s effect on the jet stream has had more of an impact than previously thought. Over the last 40 years or so, the jet stream has become 15% more sheared and that number is expected to increase. What does that mean for flights and passengers? Let us briefly explain.

Jet streams are fast flowing, narrow currents of air that are stronger in the winter months, especially over the North Atlantic. The jet stream flows west to east in that part of the world, which in part contributes to eastbound flights to Europe having a shorter flying time than westbound flights to the US.

However, the greater the shear, which is the difference in wind speed over a relatively short distance, the more likely a plane will encounter turbulence. And shear is increasing, thanks to climate change.

However, we looked for the first time at the wind shear, where significant change has previously gone unnoticed. This strengthens previous projections for increased clear-air turbulence, as we can see an increase in one of the driving forces has happened already. This has serious implications for airlines, as passengers and crew would face a bigger risk of injury.” – Simon Lee, Reading University PhD lead researcher

These same researchers are working with aircraft manufacturers and engineers to ensure the next generation of planes are equipped to handle increasing amounts of turbulence.

In the interim, don’t be surprised to feel an extra jolt of in-air movement, especially on that transatlantic flight over the pond.

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2 comments

Jim August 11, 2019 - 5:50 pm

Climate change? Yes it is obvious. It is 80F today and it is 10f in January. Anything you can do about it ? Not a damn thing! Anyone who says they can effect the climate by driving less or anything else is just dishonest

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DaninMCI August 12, 2019 - 4:49 am

If this is true shouldn’t we be seeing more wind shear accidents on landing or take off? Seems odd.

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