Climate change will lead to more turbulence, more fuel use and more insurance cost
Date added: January 20, 2017
Climate change will lead to bumpier flights caused by increased mid-air turbulence, according to an analysis by scientists, at the University of Reading. This could hit insurers by making plane journeys bumpier, It could also make flights longer, as planes need to fly round areas of turbulence – itself causing higher fuel use and carbon emissions (helping to increase climate change). Research has shown that planes travelling from Europe to North America could face an increased chance of hitting turbulence by as much as 170% later this century. This is because climate change will strengthen instabilities within the jet stream – a high-altitude wind blowing from west to east across the Atlantic Ocean. The turbulence could also be up to 40% stronger. The work is part of a wider body of research by University of Reading into the interaction of aviation and atmospheric physics. This includes the extra non-CO2 impacts of aviation due to contrails, formed behind aircraft flying at high altitude, which also adds to global warming by adding to cloud cover, preventing heat from escaping Earth’s atmosphere. The extra problems from turbulence might lead to more passenger injuries, and more damage to planes, affecting the insurance industry. Longer journeys could increase flight times and delays, an increase ticket prices.
TURBULENCE EXPERT REVEALS COST OF CLIMATE CHANGE TO AVIATION INSURERS
Climate change could hit insurers by making plane journeys bumpier, a University of Reading scientist has told an audience of leading insurers.
The Insurance Institute of London lecture at Lloyds of London on Wednesday 18 January, was attended by the City’s leading insurance players including CEOs, managing directors, brokers, underwriters, and lawyers.
Atmospheric scientist Dr Paul Williams, a Royal Society University Research Fellow, told the audience in Lloyds’ Old Library about the likelihood of increased turbulence and more extreme weather.
Research by Dr Williams has shown that planes travelling from Europe to North America could face an increased chance of hitting turbulence by as much as 170% later this century. This is because climate change will strengthen instabilities within the jet stream – a high-altitude wind blowing from west to east across the Atlantic Ocean. The turbulence could also be up to 40% stronger.
Diverting around the additional turbulence has the potential to lengthen journeys and increase fuel burn, which could add to ticket prices and also contribute to climate change, completing a vicious circle.
“Increased turbulence and flight times could have a knock-on effect on passengers and the aviation and insurance industries”
Dr Williams said: “The aviation industry is facing pressure to reduce its environmental impact, but our work has shown how aviation is itself susceptible to the effects of climate change.
“Increased turbulence and flight times could have a knock-on effect on passengers and the aviation and insurance industries.”
Dr Williams’ work is part of a wider body of research by University of Reading experts into the interaction of aviation and atmospheric physics.
For example, research by Professor Keith shine and Dr Emma Irvine has shown that condensation trails, or contrails, formed behind aircraft flying at high altitude, can also add to global warming by adding to cloud cover, which prevents heat from escaping Earth’s atmosphere.
Researchers at Reading have also been central to efforts to study the spread of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere. Their work helped to aid the safe resumption of flights after the grounding of all UK air traffic following the eruption of a volcano in Iceland in April 2010.
Watch Dr Williams explain why turbulence could increase in this video.
Climate change will lead to bumpier flights caused by increased mid-air turbulence, according to an analysis by scientists, at the University of Reading, of the impact of global warming on weather systems over the next 40 years. The study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The increasing clear air turbulence results from the impact of climate change on the jet streams, which are at the altitude at which airliners fly. The jet streams are driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. More turbulence will cause more injuries to passengers and aircrew every year, as well as delays and damage to planes. There is an estimate of this costing some £100m each year. The Reading study indicated the frequency of turbulence on trans-Atlantic flights will double by 2050 and its intensity increase by 10-40%. Rerouting flights to avoid stronger patches of turbulence could increase fuel consumption and carbon emissions, make delays at airports more common, and ultimately push up ticket prices. Ironic. Aviation helps drive climate change – and gets some of its adverse impacts.
Climate change will lead to bumpier flights, say scientists
The shifting of the jet stream over Europe caused by global warming will lead to clear-air turbulence
Climate change will lead to bumpier flights caused by increased mid-air turbulence, according to an analysis by scientists of the impact of global warming on weather systems over the next four decades.
The increasing air turbulence results from the impact of climate change on the jet streams, the fast, mile-wide winds that whistle round the planet at the same altitude as airliners. The shifting of the jet stream over Europe has also been blamed for the UK’s wash-out summer in 2012 andfrozen spring this year.
Paul Williams, at the University of Reading who led the new research, said: “Air turbulence does more than just interrupt the service of in-flight drinks. It injures hundreds of passengers and aircrew every year. It also causes delays and damages planes, with the total cost to society being about £100m each year.”
The study, which used the same turbulence models that air traffic controllers use every day, found that the frequency of turbulence on the many flights between Europe and North America will double by 2050 and its intensity increase by 10-40%.
“Rerouting flights to avoid stronger patches of turbulence could increase fuel consumption and carbon emissions, make delays at airports more common, and ultimately push up ticket prices,” said Williams.
The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, focused only clear-air turbulence, rather than the buffeting caused by major storms, which may also become more common in a warming world. “Clear-air turbulence is especially problematic to airliners, because it is invisible to pilots and satellites,” said Manoj Joshi at the University of East Anglia, who also worked on the new study.
There is evidence that clear-air turbulence has already risen by 40-90%over Europe and North America since 1958, but that is set to increase further due to global warming. The jet streams, which meander for thousands of miles, are driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics, Williams explained.
Climate change is heating the Arctic faster than lower latitudes, because of the rapid loss of reflective sea ice, so the temperature difference is growing. That leads to stronger jet streams and greater turbulence. The modelling done by Williams and Joshi assumed that carbon dioxide levels will double from pre-industrial levels by 2050, which is in the mid-range of current projections for future emissions.
Most injuries caused by clear-air turbulence occur to passengers not wearing their seatbelts, who hit their heads on the aircraft’s ceiling. Williams said his new findings, the first to assess the impact of climate change on turbulence, has already changed his own behaviour: “I certainly always keep my seatbelt fastened now, which I didn’t used to do.”
Air travel to get bumpier as CO2 emissions rise, scientists say
* Turbulence to become more frequent, stronger by mid-century
* CO2 emissions forecast to double by 2050
By Nina Chestney
Turbulence on transatlantic flights will become more frequent and severe by 2050 as carbon dioxide emissions rise, leading to longer journey times and increased fuel consumption, British scientists said in a study on Monday.
Any air traveller has probably experienced turbulence. It can happen without warning and is caused by climate conditions such as atmospheric pressure, jet streams, cold and warm fronts or thunderstorms.
Light turbulence shakes the aircraft, but more severe episodes can injure passengers and cause structural damage to planes, costing around an estimated $150 million a year.
Turbulence will be stronger and occur more often if carbon dioxide emissions double by 2050 as the International Energy Agency forecasts, scientists at the universities of Reading and East Anglia said in the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Carbon dioxide is one of the most potent greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Increasing emissions raise the global average temperature, heating up the lower atmosphere.
However, warming also changes the atmosphere 10 km above ground level, making it more unstable for planes, Paul Williams at the University of Reading and co-author of the report, told Reuters.
FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS
The scientists focused on the North Atlantic flight corridor – where 600 planes travel between Europe and North America each day – using computer simulations to examine the effects of climate change on conditions there.
They found that the chances of encountering significant turbulence by the middle of the century will increase by between 40 and 170 percent, with the most likely outcome being a doubling of airspace containing significant turbulence.
The average strength of turbulence would also increase by between 10 and 40 percent.
Bumpier air journeys would make flying more uncomfortable and raise the risks to passengers and crew.
Detours to avoid strong patches of turbulence would lengthen flight times, increasing fuel consumption, emissions and airport delays, which would ultimately drive up ticket prices, Williams said.
Air travel is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon dioxide emissions, but the effects of climate change on turbulence have not been studied before.
“Aviation is partly responsible for changing the climate in the first place. It is ironic that the climate looks set to exact its revenge by creating a more turbulent atmosphere for flying,” Williams said.
The International Air Transport Association said the issue of climate sensitivity still held many uncertainties and the study would not change airline procedures.
The aviation sector is aiming to halve its net CO2 emissions by 2050 from 2005 levels through new technology, alternative fuels and increased efficiency.
There have also been attempts to tax the sector amid slow progress towards a global deal on curbing aviation emissions.
The European Union tried to force all airlines landing or taking off from EU airports to pay for their emissions last year through its carbon trading scheme. But opposition was so fierce it almost led to a trade war, so the law was frozen for a year for inter-continental flights. (Editing by Alistair Lyon)