Climate Change and Turbulence

Submitted by ub on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 15:03

As someone who does not like to fly, I do not appreciate reading the following developments, considering the recent hardware, software and everywhere fears I have of flying.

Researchers are linking climate change to increased turbulence. Anthropogenic climate change is expected to strengthen the vertical wind shears at aircraft cruising altitudes within the atmospheric jet streams.

Such strengthening would increase the prevalence of the shear instabilities that generate clear-air turbulence. Climate modeling studies have indicated that the amount of moderate-or-greater clear-air turbulence on transatlantic flight routes in winter will increase significantly in the future as the climate changes.

However, the individual responses of light, moderate, and severe clear-air turbulence have not previously been studied, despite their importance for aircraft operations. Here, we use climate model simulations to analyze the transatlantic wintertime clear-air turbulence response to climate change in five aviation-relevant turbulence strength categories. We find that the probability distributions for an ensemble of 21 clear-air turbulence diagnostics generally gain probability in their right-hand tails when the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is doubled.

By converting the diagnostics into eddy dissipation rates, we find that the ensemble-average airspace volume containing light clear-air turbulence increases by 59% (with an intra-ensemble range of 43%–68%), light-to-moderate by 75% (39%–96%), moderate by 94% (37%–118%), moderate-to-severe by 127% (30%–170%), and severe by 149% (36%–188%).

These results suggest that the prevalence of transatlantic wintertime clear-air turbulence will increase significantly in all aviation-relevant strength categories as climate changes.

Report for: Increased light, moderate, and severe clear-air turbulence in response to climate change