Flights from London to New York take longer than the other way around and it could be down to climate change according to Paul Williams, a Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading.
He spoke with Business Insider UK about how climate change is affecting the jet stream, particularly on flights across the Atlantic.
Read the full transcript below:
“As the jet stream across the Atlantic speeds up in response to climate change, I think we will see eastbound flights speeding up and westbound flights slowing down.
“We have evidence that the wind patterns between 30,000 and 40,000 feet where planes cruise are changing because of climate change.
“In particular the jet stream which blows from west to east across the Atlantic Ocean, for example, is speeding up and that’s going to make eastbound transatlantic flights faster but it’s also going to make westbound crossings slower because of the stronger headwinds.
“So I think we’ll see more record-breakingly fast eastbound transatlantic flights in the future, but also a lot more delayed arrivals into North America from Europe because of the stronger headwinds.
“There might already be some evidence that this is happening because there was a five-day period a couple of years ago when the jet stream was blowing very quickly at over 200 miles per hour. There were planes that took off from London Heathrow heading to New York with what should have been enough fuel to get all the way to New York but they got part-way across and realised that actually, they didn’t have enough fuel. This was because the headwinds were so strong they had to make an emergency stop in Maine to refuel before they could continue onto JFK.
“And in the same five-day period, a British Airways flight from JFK airport in New York to Heathrow in London took only five hours and 16 minutes because the tailwinds were so strong.
“That actually broke the record for a crossing, the non-Concord record.
“So these are the kind of things that I think we’ll see more of in the future as climate change continues to speed up the jet stream.”
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