Explained | Singapore Airlines turbulence: How is climate change affecting flights?

While accidents typically involve a combination of factors, let us decode how climate change can impact your flight journey.
Last Updated : 22 May 2024, 14:28 IST
Last Updated : 22 May 2024, 14:28 IST

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One passenger was killed and 30 injured after a Singapore Airlines flight from London experienced severe turbulence mid-air on Tuesday, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Bangkok, officials and the airline said.

Singapore Airlines did not immediately say what type of turbulence caused the accident. Tracking service FlightRadar24 said there were storms - some severe - in the area at the time.

Turbulence or pockets of disturbed air can have many causes, most commonly the unstable weather patterns that trigger storms, according to an industry briefing by plane maker Airbus. The resulting water particles can be detected by the weather radar.

While accidents typically involve a combination of factors, let us decode how climate change can impact your flight journey

As per a research published in Advancing Earth and Space Sciences, clear-air turbulence (CAT), is expected to intensify due to climate change.

CAT is a sudden and severe swirl that causes violent buffeting of a plane even where there are no clouds, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The research paper argues that clear air turbulences have become more frequent in the last 40 years, in tandem with climate change.

In a 2023 article, Forbes reported quoting another research that climate change gives rise to air turbulence because the rising carbon dioxide emissions lead to warmer air which in turn increase wind shear in the jet streams, "strengthening clear-air turbulence globally".

It has also been noted that regions that are over western ocean basins are most prone to CAT.

"...This is partly because there is a large zonal temperature contrast between the ocean and continent at the western boundary, especially in winter, due to their different specific heat capacities. These horizontal temperature gradients contribute to vertical wind shear, which in turn contribute to CAT", the research read.

"Following a decade of research showing climate change will increase clear-air turbulence in the future, we now have evidence suggesting that the increase has already begun. We should be investing in improved turbulence forecasting and detection systems, to prevent the rougher air from translating into bumpier flights in the coming decades", Professor Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Reading said.

Published 22 May 2024, 14:28 IST

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