A group of scientists have predicted that climate change will cause up to three times more serious flight turbulence by 2050.
The research group from the University of Reading used supercomputer simulations of the atmosphere to project how much turbulence there would be during journeys.
Popular flight paths will be the worst affected, with turbulence over the North Atlantic potentially going up 180%, over Europe 160% and North America 110%.
They looked at clear-air turbulence (CAT), which is virtually undetectable by aircraft sensors and invisible save a few clouds. While it doesn’t threaten to down planes, it is the biggest cause of in-flight injuries to passengers and cabin crew.
CAT happens when jet streams moving at different speeds and directions come into contact with each other and a plane is caught up in between. It can cause anything from mild shaking to severe turbulence, where passengers are put under forces stronger than gravity.
Professor Paul Williams, the paper’s lead researcher, said: “This problem is only going to worsen as the climate continues to change.
“Our study highlights the need to develop improved turbulence forecasts, which could reduce the risk of injuries to passengers and lower the cost of turbulence to airlines.”
Williams found another unpleasant effect of climate change in a previous study – flying will become more expensive.
For transatlantic flights this is because flights will be slower due to changes in the temperature-controlled jet stream pilots use to nip across the ocean.
The scientists’ full letter, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, can be read here.