Flights will experience more turbulence in the future says UEA study

PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:31 04 October 2017

Flights will experience more turbulence in the future, according to a UEA study (Picture: PA)

Flights will experience more turbulence in the future, according to a UEA study (Picture: PA)


Flights will experience more turbulence in the future, according to a study of in-flight bumpiness from the UEA and the University of Reading.

Led by the University of Reading, it shows that climate change will significantly increase the amount of severe turbulence worldwide by 2050–2080.

Severe turbulence involves forces stronger than gravity, and is strong enough to throw people and luggage around a plane.

Flights to the most popular international destinations are projected to experience the largest increases, with severe turbulence at a typical cruising altitude becoming up to two or three times as common throughout the year over Europe, North America, and Asia.

Dr Manoj Joshi, a senior lecturer in climate dynamics at the UEA also worked on the study and said: “The study is another example of how the impacts of climate change can be felt through the circulation of the atmosphere, not just through increases in surface temperature itself.”

Dr Paul Williams, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, led the new research. He said: “Air turbulence is increasing across the globe, in all seasons, and at multiple cruising altitudes. This problem is only going to worsen as the climate continues to change. Our study highlights the need to develop improved turbulence forecasts, which could reduce the risk of injuries to passengers and lower the cost of turbulence to airlines.”

The study also makes the first ever turbulence projections for the Southern Hemisphere. The amount of airspace containing severe turbulence is calculated to increase by 60pc over South America and by 50pc over Australia and Africa.

Mr Luke Storer, a PhD researcher who worked on the study, said: “While turbulence does not usually pose a major danger to flights, it is responsible for hundreds of passenger injuries every year. It is also by far the most common cause of serious injuries to flight attendants. Turbulence is thought to cost United States air carriers up to $200 million annually.”

The new research in Geophysical Research Letters, analyses simulations of the future atmosphere with a focus on clear-air turbulence, which is particularly hazardous because it is invisible.

The expected turbulence increases are a consequence of global temperature changes.

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