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Climate Change

Jenner & Block: Climate Change May Cause Greater Aviation Turbulence

A recent study published in the British journal, Nature Climate Change, suggests that turbulence on flights may be stronger and occur more often if carbon dioxide emissions double by 2050 further heating up the atmosphere. 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. The study's findings show for the first time how climate change could affect aviation.

Despite these findings, there is good news for those that fly frequently. Recent data released by the IPCC confirms that global warming trends are not as bad as originally predicted in the IPCC's 2007 report and modeling incorporated there. Therefore, the anticipated impacts of climate change may be greatly reduced or delayed if current global temperature trends continue. The lesser or delayed climate change consequences should mitigate against the aviation turbulence discussed in the above study.

Nature Climate Change is a monthly journal dedicated to publishing the most significant and cutting-edge research on the science of climate change, its impacts and wider implications for the economy, society and policy. Learn more about climate change and the study addressing aviation-related impacts discussed above at

Read more at Corporate Environmental Lawyer Blog by Jenner & Block LLP.

  E. Lynn Grayson, Partner, Jenner & Block

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