The Sky’s Getting Bumpier

The Sky’s Getting Bumpier

Today’s turbulent skies result from climate change, as per new University of Reading research. This study reveals a concerning trend: clear-air turbulence (CAT) rises as our planet warms, posing higher air travel risks.

The research reveals that over the past four decades, clear-air turbulence has surged in various global regions. In the North Atlantic air corridor, severe turbulence increased by 55%, from 17.7 to 27.4 hours annually, from 1979 to 2020. Moderate turbulence increased by 37%, from 70.0 to 96.1 hours, while light turbulence rose by 17%, from 466.5 to 546.8 hours.

The University of Reading team, publishing their findings in Geophysical Research Letters, attributes these increases to climate change. Moreover, warmer air resulting from CO2 emissions is amplifying windshear in jet streams, which in turn strengthens clear-air turbulence globally.

PhD researcher Mark Prosser emphasized the seriousness of the issue: “Turbulence not only makes flights uncomfortable but can also be hazardous. The aviation industry must brace for these changes, as turbulence already costs the US aviation sector between $150-500 million annually. Each additional minute spent in turbulence accelerates aircraft wear-and-tear and increases the risk of injuries.”

While the USA and North Atlantic bear the brunt of these changes, turbulence has also increased over Europe. Researchers have observed significant increases in the Middle East and the South Atlantic as well.

Professor Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist and co-author of the study, noted, “After a decade of research indicating that climate change would exacerbate clear-air turbulence, we now have evidence that this increase is already underway. It’s imperative that we invest in advanced turbulence forecasting and detection systems to mitigate these impacts.”

The Human Cost of Inaction

Recent incidents underline the urgency of addressing this issue. Passengers on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin experienced severe turbulence that sent twelve individuals to the hospital. One traveler recounted, “There was panic everywhere. Flight attendants were thrown against the ceiling, sustaining injuries.” This harrowing event, and others like it, underscore the human toll of our failure to combat climate change.

In another incident, a Singapore Airlines flight faced extreme turbulence over Myanmar, resulting in over 100 injuries and the tragic death of a 73-year-old British passenger. These events starkly remind us of the immediate dangers of increasing turbulence, reinforcing the need for robust action against climate change.

A Call to Action

The Green Party urges immediate action to tackle climate change, directly tied to worsening air turbulence severity. Investing in renewable energy, implementing stricter emissions regulations, and advancing sustainable transportation are critical steps towards mitigating these impacts.

The University of Reading’s findings underscore the need for climate policies prioritizing environmental and human health and safety. Without immediate action, the skies will only become rougher, with severe consequences for all.

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