Climate change may increase clear-air turbulence

WSMV's Cruz Medina reports.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 5:19 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A warming climate may increase the frequency of clear-air turbulence encounters by aircraft.

You may have experienced turbulence before on a flight, and you know it can be one of the scariest feelings. It’s almost like being on roller coaster and feeling your heart sink into your stomach after the first initial drop. It can feel awful.

Researchers at the UK National Center for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS) are using climate change computer models to show how hazardous turbulence will affect the aviation sector in the future. Turbulence on a flight can happen in any kind of weather, at any given moment, but often occurs in clear air.

Clear-air turbulence is particularly dangerous because there are no visual clues, such as clouds that aircraft may be able to detect, so it can affect a flight at any moment.

As temperatures continue to warm on average, the jet stream is altered. This disrupts high-level wind currents at altitudes where planes and jets fly. Any alteration to these jet streams can enhance the formation of turbulent pockets of air leading to bumpier rides in the future.

The FAA says turbulence is the No. 1 cause of injuries to passengers and staff on aircraft. With clear-air turbulence expected to increase in the future, use this as a reminder to keep your seatbelt on at all times during a plane ride to avoid injury if you encounter turbulence during your travels.