Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Climate Change Brings Ill Winds for Airline Industry

Scientists say wind patterns altered by climate variability are costing airlines millions of dollars in extra fuel and flying time − and increasing CO2 emissions.

The vapor trail from a passenger jet flying at high altitude. (Image Credit: Pieter van Marion via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Global warming may already be taking its toll of air miles.  As jet planes burn fuel and release carbon dioxide, the atmosphere warms and causes head winds to build up.  Tail winds do too, but round trip journey times are nevertheless creeping up − and so are fuel costs.

A team of US scientists say the cumulative effect of the longer flight times that they think may have resulted from climate variation would have added millions of dollars to airlines’ costs, and perhaps a billion gallons of extra fuel.

Kristopher Karnauskas, an associate scientist in geology and geophysics at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US, and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that they analysed flight times and daily wind speeds at cruising altitudes for four airlines on three routes over the last 20 years.
This showed that the eastbound trip might be 10 minutes shorter, the westbound trip was 11 minutes longer, and most of this difference could be accounted for by natural cycles based on changes in ocean temperatures.

Read more at Climate Change Brings Ill Winds for Airline Industry

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