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Study: Climate change means higher airfare

Posting in Environment

Climate change could make transatlantic flights costlier and more memorable (in a bad way) for passengers due to intense turbulence

Your winter excursions to London might mean enduring a very bumpy flight. Scientists from the United Kingdom have determined that climate change will lead to more virulent turbulence over the North Atlantic, costing comfort, jet fuel, and consequently raising fares.

A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Friday by scientists from Reading University, U.K. concluded that commercial aircraft will encounter progressively worse "clear-air" turbulence as atmospheric jet streams intensify. Clear air turbulence cannot be detected by pilots, instruments or satellites and poses a threat to aircraft and passenger safety.

Reading's Dr Paul Williams told BBC News that a bumpier air corridor could cause flights to be diverted to avoid dangerous winds, lengthening flight times and costing more fuel. "Fuel costs money, which airlines have to pay, and ultimately it could of course be passengers buying their tickets who see the prices go up," Williams told the BBC's Jonathan Amos.

The scientists used a super computer to project that clear-air turbulence would increase 10-40% in intensity and forecasted a "40-170% increase in the frequency of occurrence of moderate-or-greater turbulence," according to Nature. These effects of climate change could become reality by mid-century, the research suggested, and there's already been evidence that winds are blowing more strongly than in the past.

Incidents of moderate-or-greater turbulence that occur today already injure many hundreds of passengers and costs airlines tens of millions in U.S. dollars in fuel and structural damage to planes annually, the study said.

(image credit: twscritic.com)

— By on April 8, 2013, 1:12 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure