US

A meteorologist says climate change will make it more expensive to fly -- and it's all because of turbulence

Climate change could make flying more expensive in the future and it’s all down to increased turbulence, according to Paul Williams, a Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading.

He said: “Invisible turbulence in the atmosphere is generated by what atmospheric scientists call a wind shear. It means that the higher up you go, the stronger winds blow.

“So for example, if you’ve ever climbed the Eiffel Tower, you’ll know that when you’re on the ground it’s usually not very windy but as you climb up and go higher, the winds speed picks up. That’s a wind shear.

“That effect increases all the way up to 10 kilometres in altitude where planes fly and it is wind shears, in the atmospheric winds that cause clear-air turbulence, and we have evidence that the jet stream is speeding up because of climate change.

“So that’s increasing the wind shear, increasing the instabilities and causing more turbulence to break out.

“There are a number of different ways in which turbulence costs the airlines money and of course they have to pass those costs on to the passengers. The most obvious way is injuries to passengers, flight attendants and crew. We know that there are thousands of planes every year in the USA alone encountering severe turbulence which is strong enough to hospitalise people.

“If you add up all of these costs, the total cost of turbulence to the airlines is estimated to be up to $US500 million a year in the USA alone and if you extrapolate that figure globally, we’re easily talking into the billions of dollars a year as being the cost of turbulence to airlines which of course gets passed on to passengers.”

Produced by Jasper Pickering. Filmed by David Ibekwe. Special thanks to Joe Daunt.

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