In addition to rising seas and longer droughts, scientists now believe that global climate change could also make flying just a bit more turbulent in the near future.
Turbulence happens when a plane flies through clashing bodies of air moving at widely different speeds. It usually results in nothing more than a bumpy ride, however, in worst cases, turbulence can cause severe damage and injuries.
As per CNN, Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading in the UK, explained that there is a scale for measuring how strong turbulence is. “There’s light turbulence, which is a bit of strain against your seat belt, but food service can continue.. Then there’s moderate turbulence, a definite strain against seat belts, anything that’s not secured will be dislodged, and walking is difficult; flight attendants are usually instructed to take their seats.”
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“The worst kind is severe turbulence: this is stronger than gravity, so it can pin you to your seat and if you’re not wearing your seat belt you’ll be tossed around inside the cabin. This is the kind of turbulence that causes serious Injuries — it’s been known to break bones, for example,” Mr Williams explained.
Noting that about 65,000 aircraft suffer moderate turbulence every year in the United States, and about 5,500 run into severe turbulence, the professor said that these numbers might be now destined to grow. Mr Williams believes that climate change is modifying turbulence.
“We ran some computer simulations and found that severe turbulence could double or triple in the coming decades,” he said.
Further, according to CNN, the professor highlighted another type of turbulence called “clear air turbulence”. He said that unlike the turbulence caused by thunderstorms or clouds, the clear air turbulence hits suddenly and is hard to avoid.
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Mr Williams predicted that “clear-air turbulence” will increase significantly around the globe by the period 2050-2080, in particular along the busiest flight routes, and the strongest type of turbulence will increase the most.
However, he also stated that this does not mean that flying will be less safe. He explained that just the average duration of turbulence will increase. “Typically, on a transatlantic flight, you might expect 10 minutes of turbulence. I think that in a few decades this may increase to 20 minutes or to half an hour. The seat belt sign will be switched on a lot more, unfortunately for passengers,” he said.
Keeping your seat belt fastened at all times while seated is the best way to minimize the risk of injury due to turbulence, Mr Williams added.