Friday, February 12, 2016

Will Climate Change Soon Make Airline Flight-Times Take Longer?

Though still dismissed by conservative Evangelical skeptics as a left-wing conspiracy, is there evidence that climate change will soon make airline flight-times take longer?

By: Ringo Bones 

Ever since the neo-Conservatives successfully managed to seamlessly use both politics and organized religion to discredit the validity of the science behind climate change and global warming during the latter half of the 1990s, climate change concerns by the world’s poorest 99-percent were largely dismissed by right-wing Evangelical conservatives as nothing more than left-wing conspiracy to tax the world’s richest 1-percent. Sadly, it seems that the longer we ignore the signs of climate change and put off ways to mitigate and even reverse its worst effects on humanity, all of humanity will be doomed – just that the richest 1-percent will be the very last to feel its worst effects. But will the frequent-flying richest 1-percent be affected by the insidious effects of climate change in the form of longer flight times as they jet-set to their various dens of iniquities?

Even though this will too affect the working-class frequent-flyers, flights from the U.K. to the U.S. could take longer due to changes in the climate, according to a new study. Global warming is likely to speed up the jet stream, say researchers and slow down airplanes travelling from the U.K. to the U.S. While eastbound flights from the U.S. to the U.K. will be quicker but overall round trip journeys will “significantly lengthen.” The University of Reading scientists believe the changes will increase carbon emissions and fuel consumption and potentially raise airline ticket prices. The study has been published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. 

High altitude jet streams in the northern and southern hemisphere are the powerful winds that help move weather systems around the globe. Air traffic normally tries to take advantage of these speedy flows of the Atlantic jet stream from west to east to reduce journey times on routes between Europe and North America. This is one of the world’s busiest air routes with around 600 flights every day. Previous studies have shown that climate change is likely to increase turbulence on these transatlantic flights. In this new study, researchers modelled how atmospheric winds would change given a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. They fed the results into the same route algorithms that airlines routinely use to plan their transatlantic journeys. They found that winds in the New York to London route will become 15-percent faster on average. Flights from London to New York will become twice as likely to take over seven hours while the flights from New York to London will speed up and will become twice as likely to take under five hours and twenty minutes. While on average, flights will only gain and lose a few minutes each way, the cumulative impact is “significant” says the study. 

“If you look at the round trips, the eastbound flights are getting shorter by less than the westbound flights are getting longer.” Lead author Dr. Paul Williams from the University of Reading told BBC News. “So there is a robust increase in the round trip journey time, which means planes spending longer in the air, when you add that up for all transatlantic aircraft you get an extra 2,000 hours of planes in the air every year, with US$22-million extra in fuel costs and 70-million kilograms of carbon dioxide.” The researchers say the extra carbon dioxide generated is equivalent of the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 7,000 British homes. 

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