You're about to feel a lot more turbulence on planes, and here's why

Jeff Parsons


Nervous fliers are in for a shock as a new study has revealed that air turbulence is set to increase due to climate change.

Research carried out by the University of Reading showed that light turbulence is set to increase by 59 percent in the future.

Moderate turbulence will see a 94 percent increase while severe turbulence will jump by a massive 149 percent.

The added bumps will come from the fact that increased carbon dioxide levels and higher temperatures will alter the airflow at cruising altitude.

Jet airplane landing - Getty


Turbulence occurs when air mass moving at one speed meets air mass travelling at another. The plane is literally buffeted by the different movements.

"For most passengers, light turbulence is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience that reduces their comfort levels, but for nervous fliers even light turbulence can be distressing," said the study's author, Dr. Paul Williams.

"However, even the most seasoned frequent fliers may be alarmed at the prospect of a 149 percent increase in severe turbulence, which frequently hospitalizes air travelers and flight attendants around the world."



The study was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

It used supercomputer simulations of the atmosphere to calculate how wintertime transatlantic clear-air turbulence will change at an altitude of around 12 km (39,000 feet) when there is twice as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Something widely expected to occur later this century.

Dr Williams added: "My top priority for the future is to investigate other flight routes around the world.

"We also need to investigate the altitude and seasonal dependence of the changes, and to analyze different climate models and warming scenarios to quantify the uncertainties."

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