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Aircraft disruptions exacerbated by climate change

Aircraft disruptions exacerbated by climate change

Climate change could make air travel more active, according to an analysis by British researchers.

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According to their research, the disruptions could get stronger and longer over the next few years.

“We ran computer simulations and found that strong turbulence could double or triple in the coming decades,” says Paul Williams, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Reading in the UK.

Several types of turbulence exist, the type called “clear air turbulence” that is likely to be more frequent and stronger.

These occur by surprise, without visible evidence such as clouds or storms. Unlike regular turbulence, turbulence strikes clear air suddenly and is difficult to avoid, CNN reports.

Researchers are reassured: This does not mean that flying will be any less safe.

“Airplanes will not start falling from the sky, they are built to very high specifications and can withstand the worst turbulence,” says the researcher.

Typically, on a transatlantic flight, the turbulence lasts an average of ten minutes. I think in a few decades it could go down to 20 minutes or half an hour. “The seat belt signal will be activated almost all the time for occupants,” Paul Williams explains.

In nonfatal accidents, turbulence is the leading cause of injury to flight attendants and passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Injuries, delays and damages from turbulence cost US airlines up to $500 million annually, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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“There is some slight turbulence, which puts a little strain on the seat belt, but the food service can go on and you can probably walk around the booth, maybe with some difficulty,” says Paul Williams.


“Then there’s mild turbulence, an emphatic pressure on seat belts, and anything loose will fall off and walking is difficult; flight attendants are usually told to sit down.”


“The worst kind is extreme turbulence: It’s stronger than gravity, so you’ll get stuck in your seat and if you don’t wear your seat belt you’ll flip around inside the cabin. This is the kind of turbulence that causes serious injuries that can cause fractures.”

5000 severe disturbance

Approximately 65,000 aircraft experience moderate turbulence each year in the United States and approximately 5,500 aircraft experience severe turbulence.