Disrupted flights due to climate change?

By: Staff Reporter

New Delhi, February 13 (G’nY News Service): The impact of climate on aviation has long since manifested itself through temperature variations, bumpier rides, turbulence and weight reduction on planes. But now, studies have shown that additional factors such as faster jet stream winds (a strong high-altitude wind that blows west to east across the Atlantic) driven by the temperature difference at high altitudes between the polar region and equator, are set to make a difference due to increasing temperature differences triggered by climate change.


A study by the University of Reading to investigate into this phenomenon has just been presented to IOP journal, Environmental Research Letters headed by Atmospheric scientist Dr. Paul Williams. Researchers from the University of Reading used climate models to simulate how a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would affect atmospheric winds.

“The aviation industry is facing pressure to reduce its environmental impacts, but this study shows aviation is itself susceptible to the effects of climate change,” Dr. Williams said. “This effect will increase the fuel costs to airlines, potentially raising ticket prices, and it will worsen the environmental impacts of aviation.” Fuel costs are a critical factor in airlines’ competitiveness.


Air traffic normally tries to take advantage of speedy flows of the Atlantic jet stream from west to east to reduce journey time on routes between Europe and North America. This is one of the world’s busiest routes with around 600 flights daily .Flights may gain or lose only a few minutes each way on average but the cumulative impact is significant.

How Climate Change will Delay Flights

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Initially, the study had focussed on flights between London and New York and how they change when the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is doubled. Findings suggested that the prevailing jet-stream winds causes eastbound flights to significantly shorten and westbound flights to lengthen in all seasons. Eastbound and westbound crossings in winter become approximately twice as likely to take under 5 hours 20 minutes and over 7 hours respectively.

Assuming that there would be no future growth in aviation, aircraft will collectively be in the air for an extra 2000 hours, burn 7.2 million gallons of jet fuel amounting to US $ 22 Million and additionally emit 70 million kg of carbon dioxide for their 300 round trips each day.

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