If you're a frequent flier on transatlantic flights, you may find yourself having to spend more time up in the air.
Apparently, flights from Europe to North America could be slowed down by the impacts of climate change, but flights from North America to Europe could be sped up.
How so? Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would accelerate the jet stream in winter, lengthening westbound journeys by about 5 minutes while shortening the length of eastbound flights.
What's more, the doubling amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would continue to occur in the coming decades unless they are reduced, researchers said.
How Transatlantic Flights Could Be Affected By Climate Change
In a new study featured in the journal Environmental Research Letters, scientists from the University of Reading calculated that a plane on a transatlantic flight will spend an additional 2,000 hours in the air annually.
This will cause fuel costs and the risks for flight delays to increase. An extra 7.2 million gallons of fuel would be added if transatlantic flights stay at 600 per day.
It also indicates that ticket prices may eventually rise, and the effects of planes to the environment may worsen. An extra 70 million kg of CO2 will be emitted, which is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 7,100 homes in the UK. In a separate study, researchers suggested that flights could have a "feedback" effect that results in even more atmospheric pollution.
Atmospheric scientist Paul Williams, lead study researcher, said the aviation industry is already under pressure to reduce its effects on the environment. Their findings show a new way in which flights themselves are susceptible to the consequences of climate change.
Williams said there is good news and there is bad news: flights going to the east will be bolstered by stronger tailwinds, but it will not be enough to cancel out longer journeys to the west, which will be moving against stronger headwinds.
"The net result is that roundtrip journeys will significantly lengthen," said Williams.
Contrasting Effects Of Jet Stream Winds
Williams and his team based their calculations on the doubling levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which could happen in the next decades.
The usual jet stream wind average on the flights between the Heathrow Airport in London and the JFK International Airport in New York are predicted to turn 15 percent faster in winter, elevating from 48 mph to 55 mph. Increases will be similar in other seasons, researchers said.
Flights bound to London are twice as likely to last for 5 hours and 20 minutes, indicating that record-breaking flights may occur in the near future.
On the other hand, flights bound to New York are twice as likely to last for 7 hours. Delayed arrivals may become common.
Meanwhile, Williams said the jet stream encompasses the globe. "There is one in the southern hemisphere too," said Williams. Flights on other parts of the world may also experience a similar jet stream effect.
It is also possible that transatlantic passengers are already experiencing the effects. In 2015, a London-bound flight reportedly traversed the Atlantic for only 5 hours and 16 minutes. It had beaten its schedule by 1 hour and 30 minutes.
That same year, two flights from London had to stop in Maine for an unscheduled refuelling after flying against headwinds in the air.
Photo : James Wang | Flickr