If bumpy flights keep you on the edge of your seat, we have bad news: turbulence is going to get worse.
By 2050, the frequency of clear-air turbulence on flights between Europe and North America will double, and intensity will increase by 10 to 40 percent, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The change is due to shifts in jet stream winds caused by global warming.
Jet streams are affected by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. Because this gap is widening, jet streams will become stronger, resulting in more turbulence.
For the study, a multinational research team modeled future conditions assuming that carbon dioxide levels will double from pre-industrial levels by 2050—a mid-range projection for future emissions. The results echo past studies that suggested that air turbulence has increased by 40-90 percent over Europe and North America since 1958.
More turbulence could exacerbate current problems, including injures to passengers and air crew, flight delays and damage to planes. According to lead researcher Paul Williams from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, the total cost for these issues already amounts to more than $153 million per year.
Meanwhile, to stay safe on flights, make sure to buckle up. Most people injured in clear-air turbulence are not wearing a seat belts and hit their heads on the ceiling.