Jet stream study confirms aircraft turbulence risk from climate change | 10/4/2017 | Staff
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Climate change is having a greater impact on the jet stream than previously thought, according to a new study published in Nature.

Scientists at the University of Reading have discovered that the jet stream has become 15 percent more sheared in the upper atmosphere over the North Atlantic since satellites began observing it in 1979.

Wind - Generates - Turbulence - Study - Evidence

Because wind shear generates turbulence, the new study provides the first observation-based evidence to support previous Reading research that human-induced climate change will make severe turbulence up to three times more common by 2050-80.

This means that airline passengers will have a much bumpier ride in future, if climate change continues unabated.

Wind - Increase - Speed - Altitudes—causes - Turbulence

Vertical wind shear—the increase in wind speed at higher altitudes—causes invisible clear-air turbulence, which can be severe enough to throw airplane passengers out of their seats. It terrifies nervous fliers and injures hundreds of passengers and flight attendants every year.

The new study shows for the first time that, whilst the temperature difference between Earth's poles and the equator is narrowing at ground level because of climate change, the opposite is happening at around 34,000 feet—a typical airplane cruising altitude.

Jet - Stream - Temperature - Differences - Trend

The jet stream is driven by these temperature differences, and the strengthening trend at cruising altitudes is causing an increase in turbulence-driving wind shear, which had gone unnoticed until now.

Lead author Simon Lee, Ph.D. student in Meteorology at the University of Reading, said: "Over the last four decades, temperatures have risen most rapidly over the Arctic, whilst in the stratosphere—around...
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