Airplane Turbulence: A Growing Concern

Airplane Turbulence: A Growing Concern

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Jackson Barnett

Principal Attorney

In the serene expanse of the sky, tranquility can swiftly give way to peril as airplanes encounter turbulence. This abrupt and unpredictable phenomenon, known as clear-air turbulence, poses a significant threat to aircraft and passengers alike. Former airline pilot turned aviation historian Dan Bubb vividly describes it as akin to hitting a deep pothole at high speed, jolting passengers and crew alike. Unfortunately, recent incidents have demonstrated the increasing frequency and severity of turbulence, with one violent mid-air event in May 2024 resulting in 83 injuries and one fatality aboard a Singapore Airlines flight from London. While such severe cases are rare, turbulence overall is becoming increasingly common, and atmospheric scientists attribute this trend to our warming atmosphere.

Rising Turbulence: Climate Change’s Impact

Renowned atmospheric scientist Paul Williams from the University of Reading confirms the alarming reality: turbulence is indeed increasing, and climate change is the primary culprit. Through comprehensive analysis of four decades of atmospheric data, researchers have observed a staggering 55 percent increase in severe clear-air turbulence over the North Atlantic since 1979. This trend is not confined to specific regions; similar rises in turbulence intensity are noted over the continental USA, impacting some of the busiest air routes globally. Moreover, future projections paint a grim picture, with severe turbulence in jet streams expected to double or even triple in the coming decades if current climate change trajectories persist.

Navigating the Turbulent Sky: Aviation Challenges

The aviation industry faces unprecedented challenges as it navigates this turbulent sky. Commercial airliners frequently traverse the thin, high-altitude realms where powerful atmospheric jet streams roam. These fast-moving wind currents, crucial for shaping global weather patterns, are now intensifying due to warmer air temperatures. The resulting increase in wind shear, particularly pronounced in the North Atlantic, amplifies clear-air turbulence and poses a significant hazard to aircraft safety. As physicist Michael Pravica explains, the additional heat trapped in the atmosphere fuels atmospheric convection, disrupting the jet streams and creating turbulent conditions for aircraft in flight. As Earth continues to warm at an alarming rate, driven primarily by escalating greenhouse gas emissions, experts warn that turbulence incidents will become more frequent and severe, necessitating enhanced safety measures for passengers and crew alike.

Preparing for the Storm: Safety Measures

In light of the escalating turbulence crisis, passengers and crew must take proactive measures to ensure safety. While technological advancements and improved forecasting tools offer some mitigation strategies, the underlying solution lies in urgently addressing the root cause—human-induced climate change. As we brace for a future of increasingly turbulent skies, collaboration among scientists, policymakers, and industry stakeholders is imperative to safeguarding the safety and well-being of air travelers worldwide.

Call Barnett Law Offices if You’ve Been a Part of an Aviation Accident

If you have been involved in an aviation accident or turbulence incident, don’t hesitate to reach out to Barnett Law Offices. We can put you in contact with experienced aviation attorneys who can provide you with legal guidance and support. Contact us today for a consultation. Your safety and rights matter to us.