Will climate change make your flight longer?

Technology Eye | Feb. 11, 2016

Flights from the United Kingdom to the United States are expected to take longer in future due to climate change affecting the Atlantic jet stream.

A new study by scientists at the University of Reading looks at how climate change will affect the jet stream, a strong high-altitude wind that blows west to east across the Atlantic. Flights from the US to Europe take advantage of this air flow, but struggle against it on the return journey.

Global warming is set to speed up jet streams, making them 15% stronger and enabling flights heading eastbound to reach their destinations more quickly. However westbound flights will have to push against this stronger stream, resulting in a significant lengthening of overall journey times.

The chances of a US-bound flight lasting more than seven hours will increase by 80%, whereas flights from New York to London are likely to take under five hours and 20 minutes, much quicker than the average six-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half hour journeys usually experienced.

Source: University of Reading

The study, published in the Environmental Research Letters journal , found that these changes, caused by climate change, will increase carbon emissions and fuel consumption. Passengers can also expect to see a rise in ticket prices due to increased fuel usage.

Dr Paul William, lead author of the study, told BBC News : “There is a robust increase in the round-trip journey time, which means planes spending longer in the air. “When you add that up for all transatlantic aircraft you get an extra 2,000 hours of planes in the air every year, with $22 million extra in fuel costs and 70 million kg of CO2.”

These powerful winds, which move weather systems across the globe, are used by air traffic to reduce journey times. The Atlantic jet stream is one of the world’s busiest routes , with over 600 flights every day.

Source: BBC News

Previous research has found that climate change is likely to increase turbulence on transatlantic flights by up to 40%.

No firm evidence has been found that proves changes are occurring in the jet streams, however scientists are confident that the global increase in temperature will have an effect on the strength of the currents.

Although the study only focuses on flights between London and New York, it is believed jet streams across the world will see similar changes.

Fellow scientists have welcomed the results of the study. Gregor Leckebusch, of the University of Birmingham, said: “I think these results are an important step forward in filling in the overall puzzle that is this intricate relationship that we humans have with the climate system.”

Have you read? Climate adaptation: seizing the challenge These are the 10 longest non-stop commercial flights Will this be the longest passenger flight in the world?

SOURCE: World Economic Forum

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