The impact of climate change on the jet streams -- fast winds that circle Earth at the altitudes favored by airliners -- will lead to increasing mid-air turbulence, researchers at the University of Reading report.
That could be more than just an inconvenience, Reading researcher Paul Williams said.
"Air turbulence does more than just interrupt the service of in-flight drinks," he told The Guardian newspaper. "It injures hundreds of passengers and aircrew every year. It also causes delays and damages planes, with the total cost to society being about 100 million pounds [$150 million] each year."
Computer models suggest the frequency of turbulence on flights between Europe and North America will double by 2050 and its intensity will increase by 10 to 40 percent, the researchers said.
The impact could be widespread, Williams said.
"Rerouting flights to avoid stronger patches of turbulence could increase fuel consumption and carbon emissions, make delays at airports more common, and ultimately push up ticket prices," he said.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
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