A team of scientists has concluded that climate change has led to a "massive increase" in atmospheric turbulence that is expected to make flights even rougher than before.
The British newspaper, The Times, said that researchers had predicted that the global warming would increase the "turbulence", which causes vibrations of different intensities in the bodies of aircraft, and causes panic among passengers during flights.
It has now been shown that this increase in turbulence has become a reality, as researchers concluded in a recent study that it is increasing in frequency on some of the busiest airlines in the world, which transport passengers between the United States and Europe.
This comes after a team from Britain's University of Reading and Britain's Met Office concluded, in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, that turbulence over the North Atlantic increased by 55%, and its total duration lasted from 17.7 hours in 1979 to 27.4 hours in 2020. Light turbulence increased by 17%, and medium intensity turbulence increased by 37% over the same period.
Professor Paul Williams, of the University of Reading, said: "We've found a huge increase in turbulence. There is more turbulence in the atmosphere now than it was 40 years ago. And I don't claim that's enough to claim that flights are much rougher than they were before." 40 years, but it is almost like that, "as it is difficult for the turbulence in the atmosphere to increase by 55%, and that does not make the flights more rugged."
Air travel accounts for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions, which is adding to the global warming. Climate change in the upper troposphere - the lowest layer of the atmosphere, up to 19 kilometers high - increases the temperature difference between the warm equator and the cold Arctic.
This difference in temperature creates a jet stream, a rapid flow of air almost horizontally in the North Atlantic. The greater the difference, the greater the shear wind - the climatic phenomenon resulting from the sudden difference in wind speed or direction between two points close to the atmosphere - and the turbulence increased as a result.
It is difficult so far to accurately calculate the extent of the increase in turbulence. Because it is not visible. However, we can calculate jet streams based on their shape and the speed of air flowing through them from satellites, which is the metric that Williams and his colleagues relied on to calculate the number of turbulence emerging daily between 1979 and 2020.
Although the data indicates a general increase in turbulence, the researchers were unable to understand some of the data received, because it indicated that turbulence remained at the same rate or decreased in some regions of the world, such as Russia. Williams said more research is needed into the temperature difference between the equator and polar regions over Russia to find out why.
While experts expect that the increase in climate change will exacerbate weather disturbances. Scientists have estimated that the world's temperature will rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius during the next five years. They reasoned that temperatures would continue to rise, as long as emissions from human activity were increasing.
"We expect turbulence in the future to double or triple the current rate," said Williams, "and it is impossible that this does not lead to more turbulence during flights."
However, scientists say that technological and scientific advances can mitigate the effects of increased weather disturbances. The accuracy of predictions of disturbances has already increased, from about 60% 20 years ago to about 80% today. Williams said that while we will never get 100% correct forecasts of turbulence, there is no doubt that there is an opportunity to improve our capabilities.
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