Advances in Atmospheric Sciences

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 576–586

Increased light, moderate, and severe clear-air turbulence in response to climate change

Open Access
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00376-017-6268-2

Cite this article as:
Williams, P.D. Adv. Atmos. Sci. (2017) 34: 576. doi:10.1007/s00376-017-6268-2

Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change is expected to strengthen the vertical wind shears at aircraft cruising altitudes within the atmospheric jet streams. Such a strengthening would increase the prevalence of the shear instabilities that generate clear-air turbulence. Climate modelling studies have indicated that the amount of moderate-or-greater clear-air turbulence on transatlantic flight routes in winter will increase significantly in future as the climate changes. However, the individual responses of light, moderate, and severe clear-air turbulence have not previously been studied, despite their importance for aircraft operations. Here, we use climate model simulations to analyse the transatlantic wintertime clear-air turbulence response to climate change in five aviation-relevant turbulence strength categories. We find that the probability distributions for an ensemble of 21 clear-air turbulence diagnostics generally gain probability in their right-hand tails when the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is doubled. By converting the diagnostics into eddy dissipation rates, we find that the ensembleaverage airspace volume containing light clear-air turbulence increases by 59% (with an intra-ensemble range of 43%–68%), light-to-moderate by 75% (39%–96%), moderate by 94% (37%–118%), moderate-to-severe by 127% (30%–170%), and severe by 149% (36%–188%). These results suggest that the prevalence of transatlantic wintertime clear-air turbulence will increase significantly in all aviation-relevant strength categories as the climate changes.

Key words

turbulence climate change aviation jet stream 

Copyright information

© The Author 2017

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MeteorologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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