By Hugo Martin, Tribune Newspapers
7:17 PM EDT, April 21, 2013
In the future, white-knuckle fliers may be able to blame those brutally bumpy flights over the Atlantic on greenhouse gases.
Turbulence will be stronger and occur more often if carbon dioxide emissions double by 2050, heating up the atmosphere, according to a study by British scientists published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Turbulence is created by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts, or thunderstorms, among other conditions. Severe turbulence is responsible for 58 passenger injuries a year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. From 1980 to 2008, 298 passengers on U.S. airlines were injured and three died because of turbulence accidents, the agency said.
The study by scientists at the universities of Reading and East Anglia said the chances of running into turbulence over the Atlantic will increase 40 to 170 percent by the middle of the century, with turbulence strength increasing 10 to 40 percent.
Turbulence already may be worse because of climate change, and emissions from airlines are a big contributor, the study said.
"Aviation is partly responsible for changing the climate," study authors wrote.
"But our findings show for the first time how climate change could affect aviation."
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