As if polar bears, disappearing islands, and crazy weather aren't enough to shake your fist at climate change, rising temps are to blame for one of life's most terrifying phenomenon. According to Hello Giggles, a new report found that climate change is leading to a huge spike in airplane turbulence.
A new paper published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences looked at increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and how it affected airplane turbulence. The researchers note that it's the very first time that anyone's looked at the connection and the findings are not good news for anyone who goes all white-knuckled when the seatbelt light comes on.
Dr. Paul Williams, one of the study's authors, explains that light turbulence will increase 59%, moderate turbulence — which is enough to spill a drink — can see an increase of 94%, and heavy turbulence may rise up to 149%. Why? Increased amounts of CO2 creates wind shears, so planes are facing more and more resistance and stabilization issues when they're 30,000 feet up.
"For most passengers, light turbulence is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience that reduces their comfort levels, but for nervous fliers even light turbulence can be distressing," Williams said in a press release. "However, even the most seasoned frequent fliers may be alarmed at the prospect of a 149% increase in severe turbulence, which frequently hospitalizes air travelers and flight attendants around the world."
There's no way to predict where the wind shears will pick up or how severe they will be, so researchers are starting to look at alternate routes for already established flights. This means that things like flight times can shift and routes may start to become less straightforward.
"We also need to investigate the altitude and seasonal dependence of the changes, and to analyze different climate models and warming scenarios to quantify the uncertainties," Williams added.
Researchers add that increased turbulence can lead to more injuries in the air due to loose luggage and un-seatbelted passengers. In the meantime, Mental Floss adds that the aerospace industry is looking into advancing turbulence-detection software to help planes avoid sudden wind shears and the ensuing turbulence.