Climate change bringing turbulence in its wake: study

Image: iStock | © DaveAlan

Clear air turbulence will become more common because of climate change, a recently published study says.

‘The climate is changing—not just where we live at ground level, but also where we fly at 30,000–40,000 feet,’ study author Paul D. Williams of Reading University writes.

Climate modelling results predict the average amount of light turbulence in the atmosphere will increase by 59 per cent, with light-to-moderate turbulence increasing by 75 per cent, moderate by 94 per cent, moderate-to-severe by 127 per cent, and severe by 149 per cent.

The study, which will be published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences in May 2017, looks at the probability distributions for a set of 21 clear-air turbulence diagnostics and finds they generally gain probability in their right-hand tails when the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is doubled from pre-industrial levels. This doubling is expected to occur by the middle of this century.

The study says mid latitude jet streams in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are expected to strengthen at aircraft cruising altitudes as the climate changes. Climate change, by strengthening the vertical wind shears at aircraft cruising altitudes within the jet streams, may be increasing the frequency and intensity of clear-air turbulence.

Light detection and ranging (LIDAR) ultra-violet laser systems could mitigate the effects of increased turbulence by warning pilots of clear-air turbulence up to 5–8 nm ahead, ‘potentially enough lead time to alert passengers and crew or even to attempt an evasive manoeuvre’.

Previous studies have found LIDAR systems to be not cost effective but Williams concludes ‘it is likely that the business case will improve in future, as LIDAR technology becomes less expensive and clear-air turbulence becomes more prevalent.’


  1. Everything about “climate change” is rubbish. “Climate change” is just the latest in a long line of failed doomsday scenarios – all pushed by “scientists”. We’ve been told that overpopulation will destroy the earth, that we’ll run out of food, out of oil, etc. Before the current fad of “climate change” came “global warming”, but immediately before that, the scientists were warning of an ice-age!

    Everybody must remember that these “scientists” are normal people, with families and mouths to feed. For over a decade now, there has been plenty of government grant money available to those promoting the scare. These scientists are not the dispassionate, rigorous and unbiased individuals that they are made out to be!

  2. More nonsense from people that don’t fly, have no first hand experience of flying at high altitude and offer ridiculous percentage figures for predictions. They don’t understand that you can’t model weather which changes all the time and has never been average at any time in the earth’s history.

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