Paul Williams, the lead author of the study published in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change, and his team, established that changes in weather systems and more particularly, the jet streams, will be the cause for flight disturbances.
The same factors have also been found to have caused the wash-out summer in the UK last year, as well as the cold spring this year.
According to the authors, air-turbulence causes delays and damages to planes. It also accounts for hundreds of injuries of aircrew and passengers every year.
Based on statistical models, the scientists were able to estimate that by 2050, the frequency and intensity of air-turbulence will increase by up to 40% over Europe and North America. This will add extra cost to flight tickets, since flights will have to be redirected in order to avoid turbulence patches, increasing significantly fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
It is important to note that the study only looked at clear-air turbulence, and the findings did not consider the major storms, which are also expected to become more frequent and severe as a result of climate change. In addition, the models took into account carbon dioxide levels in the mid-range of the global projections for year 2050.
Williams and team show evidence that since 1958, clear-air turbulence has increased by up to 90% over Europe and North America, and the trend will continue. The further increase will be caused by the change in temperatures of the jet streams, which move between the poles and the tropics. The temperature difference is decreasing because of the melting of Arctic ice, which will intensify the jet streams and increase turbulence.
Changes in jet streams will not only influence air flights, but they will also impact Wi-Fi networks, mobile phone systems and even will slow down marathon athletes.