Climate change delays transatlantic flights

Planes flying between Europe and North America could be delayed due to the effects of climate change, a new study has revealed. Transatlantic aircraft could spend an extra 2,000 hours in the air every year.

Climate change will speed up eastbound flights but slow down westbound flights, due to acceleration in the jet stream, a new study has shown. The jet stream is a high-altitude wind blowing from west to east across the Atlantic.

Average jet-stream winds along the flight route between London’s Heathrow Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport are predicted to become 15 per cent faster in winter, increasing from 77 to 89 kilometres per hour.

Due to this acceleration, London-bound flights will be twice as likely to take under five hours and 20 minutes. However, New York-bound flights will become twice as likely to take over seven hours.

The findings of the study, which was conducted by the University of Reading, could have implications for airlines, passengers and airports. Transatlantic aircraft could spend an extra 2,000 hours in the air every year, adding millions of dollars to airline fuel costs and increasing the risk of delays.

“The bad news for passengers is that westbound flights will be battling against stronger headwinds. The good news is that eastbound flights will be boosted by stronger tailwinds, but not enough to compensate for the longer westbound journeys,” commented Dr Paul Williams, who led the study.

He added that round trip journeys would lengthen significantly, with effects on fuel costs to airlines. This could increase ticket prices and worsen the environmental impacts of aviation.

Due to the extra time spent in the air, transatlantic flights will burn an extra USD 22 million in fuel annually, and will emit an extra 70 million kilograms of CO2.

Photo credit: Caribb/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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