The impacts of rising temperatures on aircraft takeoff performance

Abstract

Steadily rising mean and extreme temperatures as a result of climate change will likely impact the air transportation system over the coming decades. As air temperatures rise at constant pressure, air density declines, resulting in less lift generation by an aircraft wing at a given airspeed and potentially imposing a weight restriction on departing aircraft. This study presents a general model to project future weight restrictions across a fleet of aircraft with different takeoff weights operating at a variety of airports. We construct performance models for five common commercial aircraft and 19 major airports around the world and use projections of daily temperatures from the CMIP5 model suite under the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 emissions scenarios to calculate required hourly weight restriction. We find that on average, 10–30% of annual flights departing at the time of daily maximum temperature may require some weight restriction below their maximum takeoff weights, with mean restrictions ranging from 0.5 to 4% of total aircraft payload and fuel capacity by mid- to late century. Both mid-sized and large aircraft are affected, and airports with short runways and high temperatures, or those at high elevations, will see the largest impacts. Our results suggest that weight restriction may impose a non-trivial cost on airlines and impact aviation operations around the world and that adaptation may be required in aircraft design, airline schedules, and/or runway lengths.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. Anderson JD (2015) Introduction to flight. McGraw-Hill Education, New York

    Google Scholar 

  2. Boeing (2013). 737 airplane characteristics for airport planning

  3. Burbidge R (2016) Adapting European airports to a changing climate. Transp Res Procedia 14:14–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Coffel E, Horton R (2015) Climate change and the impact of extreme temperatures on aviation. Weather Clim Soc 7:94–102

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Coffel ED, Horton RM (2016) Reply to ‘“Comment on ‘Climate change and the impact of extreme temperatures on aviation’”’. AMS Weather Clim Soc 8:207–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Collins, M. et al., (2013) in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) (Cambridge University Press, New York) (eds. Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge University Press)

  7. Coumou D, Lehmann J, Beckmann J (2015) The weakening summer circulation in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes. Science 348(80):324–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Dole R et al (2011) Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave? Geophys Res Lett 38

  9. EUROCONTROL (2004). Experimental centre. User manual for the Base of Aircraft Data (BADA)

  10. Fleurquin P, Ramasco JJ, Eguiluz VM (2013) Systemic delay propagation in the US airport network. Sci Rep 3:1159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hane FT (2015) Comment on ‘Climate change and the impact of extreme temperatures on aviation’. Weather Clim Soc 8:205–206

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hansen J, Sato M, Ruedy R (2012) Perception of climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:E2415–E2423

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hinkel J et al (2014) Coastal flood damage and adaptation costs under 21st century sea-level rise. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:3292–3297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Horton RM, Coffel ED, Winter JM, Bader DA (2015) Projected changes in extreme temperature events based on the NARCCAP model suite. Geophys Res Lett:1–10. doi:10.1002/2015GL064914

  15. Horton RM, Mankin JS, Lesk C, Coffel E, Raymond C (2016) A review of recent advances in research on extreme heat events. Curr Clim Chang Rep 2:242–259

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. ICAO (2016) Environmental report

  17. Karl TR et al (2015) Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus. Science 348(80):1469–1472

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kharin VV, Zwiers FW, Zhang X, Hegerl GC (2007) Changes in temperature and precipitation extremes in the IPCC Ensemble of Global Coupled Model Simulations. J Clim 20:1419–1444

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Knutson TR et al (2010) Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nat Geosci 3:157–163

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kodra E, Ganguly AR (2014) Asymmetry of projected increases in extreme temperature distributions. Sci Rep 4:5884

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Koetse MJ, Rietveld P (2009) The impact of climate change and weather on transport: an overview of empirical findings. Transp Res Part D Transp Environ 14:205–221

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Lan S, Clarke J-P, Barnhart C (2006) Planning for robust airline operations: optimizing aircraft routings and flight departure times to minimize passenger disruptions. Transp Sci 40:15–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Mora C et al (2013) The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability. Nature 502:183–187

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Moss RH et al (2010) The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature 463:747–756

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. O’Gorman Pa, Schneider T (2009) The physical basis for increases in precipitation extremes in simulations of 21st-century climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:14773–14777

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Pal JS, Eltahir EAB (2015) Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability. Nat Clim Chang 18203:1–4

    Google Scholar 

  27. Parris, A. et al. (2012). Global sea level rise scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment. At http://cpo.noaa.gov/sites/cpo/Reports/2012/NOAA_SLR_r3.pdf

  28. Schär C et al (2004) The role of increasing temperature variability in European summer heatwaves. Nature 427:332–336

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Sherwood SC, Huber M (2010) An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107:9552–9555

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Stott PA, Stone DA, Allen MR (2004) Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003. Nature. doi:10.1029/2001JB001029

  31. Taylor KE, Stouffer RJ, Meehl G a (2012) An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 93:485–498

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Thompson TR (2016) Aviation and the impacts of climate change ∙ climate change impacts upon the commercial air transport industry: an overview. Carbon Clim Law Rev 10:105–112

    Google Scholar 

  33. Walsh, J. et al. (2014) Chapter 2: Our changing climate. Third US Natl. Clim. Assess

  34. Webster PJ, Holland GJ, Curry Ja, Chang H-R (2005) Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment. Science 309:1844–1846

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Williams PD (2016) Transatlantic flight times and climate change. Environ Res Lett 11

  36. Williams PD (2017) Increased light, moderate, and severe clear-air turbulence in response to climate change. Adv Atmos Sci 34:576–586

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Williams PD, Joshi MM (2013) Intensification of winter transatlantic aviation turbulence in response to climate change. Nat Clim Chang 3:644–648

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Yin JH (2005) A consistent poleward shift of the storm tracks in simulations of 21st century climate. Geophys Res Lett 32:1–4

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for the CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups for producing and making available their model output. For the CMIP, the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provided coordinating support and led the development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. Funding for this research was provided through NSF grant number DGE-11-44155 and the US DOI.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

E.D.C. and T.R.T. jointly conceived of the study, conducted the analyses, and wrote the paper. R.M.H. provided the input at all stages.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ethan D. Coffel.

Electronic supplementary material

ESM 1

(DOCX 16000 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Coffel, E.D., Thompson, T.R. & Horton, R.M. The impacts of rising temperatures on aircraft takeoff performance. Climatic Change 144, 381–388 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2018-9

Download citation