Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a bumpy rlight for trans-Atlantic travelers

2013-04-16T00:00:00Z Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a bumpy rlight for trans-Atlantic travelersThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

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

More pollution is likely to mean bumpier flights for trans-Atlantic travelers, 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 percent 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 percent to 40 percent increase in the median strength of turbulence and a 40 percent to 170 percent 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.

On StarNet: Find more science, technology and health stories at azstarnet.com/news/science

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