The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Hang on to your air bag: More pollution means bumpier rides for fliers crossing North Atlantic

  • Print

LONDON - Tourists, exchange students, masters of the financial universe and other business travellers: It's time to buckle up.

More pollution is likely to mean bumpier flights for trans-Atlantic travellers, researchers say, predicting increased turbulence over the North Atlantic as carbon dioxide levels rise.

University of East Anglia climate expert Manoj Joshi said scientists have long studied the impact of the carbon-heavy aviation industry on climate change but he took a new tack.

"We looked at the effect of climate change on aviation," he said.

In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, Joshi and colleague Paul Williams ran a climate simulation that cranked up the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to twice its pre-industrial level — roughly 50 per cent more than now. Williams said they ran a series of turbulence-predicting algorithms for the North Atlantic winter period and compared the results to pre-industrial rates.

Queasy fliers need read no further.

Williams said the results showed a 10-to-40 per cent increase in the median strength of turbulence and a 40-to-170 per cent increase in the frequency of moderate-or-greater turbulence. He described the latter as shaking that is "strong enough to force the pilot to switch on the seat-belt sign, knock over drinks, and make it difficult to walk."

The explanation is that some models predict that global warming will draw the jet stream further north, creating more of the vertical wind shear that causes turbulence.

Joshi said choppier skies might prompt pilots to reroute their flights. But the North Atlantic is a busy place for air travel, with an average of 960 flights a day last week, according to aviation data companies masFlight and OAG. Pilots interviewed by The Associated Press said — in such a crowded air corridor — planes were just as likely to simply power through.

"You just got to grin and bear it," said Steven Draper, a retired airline pilot and a spokesman for the British Airline Pilots Association. Although there's no clear evidence of rougher skies just yet, Draper did say he'd seen worse weather — like storms — near the end of his career.

"My experience was that they were increasing in intensity and frequency," he said.

Academics who weren't involved in the research praised it.

University of Birmingham climatologist Gregor Leckebush said there weren't any substantial holes that he could see, although he did note that it relied on a single climate model.

Rob MacKenzie, a professor of atmospheric science at Birmingham, said additional models might have refined the researchers' results but their overall conclusion — "a really neat piece of work" — was not in doubt.

The aviation industry is the world's fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide emissions, a major factor in human-driven climate change. Solutions including plant-based jet fuels and carbon offsets have been considered, but politicians, aviation companies and international travellers have so far failed to significantly blunt the environmental impact of air travel.

Werner Krauss, a social anthropologist and the author of "The Climate Trap," said he doubted that the prospect of a more turbulent New York-to-London flight would jolt anyone into action.

"For decades now, environmentalists and climate scientists (have confronted) us on an almost daily basis with doom scenarios," said Krauss. "Do people still listen? I am not sure, and I am afraid bumpy air travel ... won't come as a shock."

___

Online:

The study: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1866.html

Contact Raphael Satter on Twitter: http://raphae.li/twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

J.P. Vigier’s Whiteboard: Coach Maurice’s first full season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • A one day old piglet glances up from his morning feeding at Cedar Lane Farm near Altona.    Standup photo Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the Canadian Museum for Human Rights use the word 'genocide' in exhibits on Indian residential schools?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google