Buckle up. A new study indicates that flying will become more turbulent due to climate change.
Researchers at the United Kingdom's University of Reading found that CO2 emissions will increase the prevalence of clear-air turbulence along flight routes in the years to come. Turbulence is caused when planes pass through columns of vertically moving air.
"Air turbulence does more than just interrupt the service of in-flight drinks," said study author Paul Williams, an atmospheric researcher at the University of Reading. "It injures hundreds of passengers and aircrew every year—sometimes fatally. It also causes delays and damage to planes."
Researchers used a number of climate models spanning into the future with turbulence-predicting algorithms to test for the results. They mainly looked at the busy North Atlantic corridor where 600 planes pass each day.
Researchers used climate simulations to fast-forward to the year 2050. They fed that future climate data to 21 turbulence-predicting algorithms, focusing on a type called "clear air turbulence," which literally comes out of the blue—pilots can't spot it, and neither can satellites or radar. The models forecast that by mid-century, clear-air turbulence will be more violent, and transatlantic flights will hit it twice as often, especially during the winter.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Climate Change.