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Flying the unfriendly skies with a changing climate.

As if air travel isn't uncomfortable enough already, new research has found that increasing atmospheric C[O.sub.2] levels could cause more severe turbulence in the North Atlantic flight corridor. Focusing on an area at an elevation of about 39,000 feet over the North Atlantic that has heavy air traffic, and limiting the study to wintertime (when turbulence is strongest), Paul Williams of the University of Reading ran two climate model simulations--one with preindustrial levels of C[O.sub.2], and the second with twice that amount. To determine turbulence frequency, he examined 21 indicators of air turbulence levels related to wind--such as air flow direction and wind speed-and compared the results for each simulation. He discovered that all degrees of turbulence increased along with the C[O.sub.2] levels, from a 59% upsurge in light turbulence to, more notably, a 149% increase in the more harmful severe turbulence. "We're particularly interested in severe turbulence, because that's the kind of turbulence that's strong enough to hospitalize people," Williams says. The study, which was published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, expands upon 2013 research that Williams coauthored, and attributes the increase in bumpiness to changes in the jet stream due to rising amounts of C[O.sub.2]. Warming temperatures near Earth's surface are expected to change the atmospheric slope between the equator and the poles, which would then lead to a stronger jet stream and a subsequent increase in wind patterns that cause turbulence. Williams plans to study other flight routes in future research. [Source: The Washington Post]

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Publication:Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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