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Climate change ‘to make transatlantic flights longer’ – Or Not!!

February 10, 2016

By Paul Homewood 


h/t Dave Ward




Matt McGrath falls for the latest piece of junk science!


Flights from the UK to the US could take longer due to the changes in the climate, according to a new study.

Global warming is likely to speed up the jet stream, say researchers, and slow down aeroplanes heading for the US.

While eastbound flights from the US will be quicker, roundtrip journeys will "significantly lengthen".

The University of Reading scientists believe the changes will increase carbon emissions and fuel consumption and potentially raise ticket prices.

The study has been published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.


Speedy streams

High altitude jet streams in the northern and southern hemisphere are the powerful winds that help move weather systems around the globe.

Air traffic normally tries to take advantage of these speedy flows of the Atlantic jet stream from west to east to reduce journey times on routes between Europe and North America.

This is one of the world’s busiest routes with around 600 flights every day.

Previous studies have shown that climate change is likely to increase turbulence on these transatlantic flights. In this new study researchers modelled how atmospheric winds would change given a doubling of atmospheric CO2.

They fed the results into the same route algorithms that airlines routinely use to plan their transatlantic journeys.

They found that the winds on the New York to London route will become 15% faster on average.

Flights from London will become twice as likely to take over seven hours while flights from New York will speed up and will become twice as likely to take under five hours and 20 minutes.

While on average, flights will only gain and lose a few minutes each way, the cumulative impact is "significant" says the study.

"If you look at the round trips, the eastbound flights are getting shorter by less than the westbound flights are getting longer," lead author Dr Paul Williams from the University of Reading told BBC News.

"So there is a robust increase in the round-trip journey time, which means planes spending longer in the air, when you add that up for all transatlantic aircraft you get an extra 2,000 hours of planes in the air every year, with $22 million extra in fuel costs and 70 million kg of CO2."

The researchers say the extra CO2 is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 7,000 British homes.


Blowing hot and cold

While at present there is no firm observational evidence of changes in the jet stream, scientists point to the fact that the record time for a non-Concorde flight from New York to London is currently 5 hours and 16 minutes, set in January last year.

"We know what drives the jet stream, it’s the temperature difference between the warm tropical regions and the cold polar regions at flight levels," said Dr Williams.

"We understand what that temperature difference is going to do in response to global warming, it’s increasing, we are very confident that the jet stream is increasing as a consequence."

The researchers believe that as well as worsening the environmental impacts of aviation, airlines are likely to increase ticket prices to cover their costs.

And while the study only applied to the London-New York route, the impacts on flights of changes in the jet streams are likely to be felt all over the world as these critical winds are found in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Other scientists in this field welcomed the study.

"This study builds on the concept that my team published last year showing that there is a two-way relationship between climate change and air travel," said Dr Kristopher Karnauskas, from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

"I think these results are an important step forward in filling in the overall puzzle that is this intricate relationship that we humans have with the climate system."

Dr Gregor Leckebusch from the University of Birmingham said the study was sound and the findings were easy to comprehend.

"My meteorological basic instinct would exactly have predicted such a result (shorter eastbound times while longer westbound times), but it is difficult to quantify the net effect without a detailed study using a conceptual model and detailed computational efforts," he said.


Only one slight problem! 

It is no great secret that global warming theory expects Arctic temperatures to increase much more quickly than the mid latitudes. Even HH Lamb knew this forty years ago, when he realised this was why the LIA was much stormier.

But don’t take my word for it, we can check out what the satellites tell us has been happening. 


First, the Mid Troposphere, which runs from about 2 miles to 6 miles up, just the region where the jet stream runs and the aircraft fly. This is from RSS: 



RSS_TS_channel_TMT_Northern Polar_Land_And_Sea_v03_3

RSS_TS_channel_TMT_Northern Mid Latitudes_Land_And_Sea_v03_3


And we see just what we expected, that the Northern Polar region has warmed up much more.


And, just for good measure, the Lower Troposphere, up to 2 miles:


RSS_TS_channel_TLT_Northern Polar_Land_And_Sea_v03_3

RSS_TS_channel_TLT_Northern Mid Latitudes_Land_And_Sea_v03_3


Exactly the same.


This is just another example of the sort of junk science served up these days, only made possible by obscene grants and a corrupt system of peer review. And, of course, the refusal of the likes of Matt McGrath to call it out for what it is.





We might recall what another junk scientist, Jennifer Francis, was telling us a couple of years ago:


Francis said a growing number of studies, including her own, suggest that the melting Arctic is having knock-on effects on the jet stream, the river of air that snakes around the northern hemisphere at an altitude of around 5 to 6 kilometres, and which has a profound impact on the world’s weather.

The jet stream is driven by the flow of air between the cold Arctic pole and warmer air that moves upwards from nearer the equator. As the warmer air advances polewards, it is swung eastwards by the Coriolis force which comes from Earth’s spin, creating a snake-like stream. “It’s a fast-moving river of air, a very messy creature,” says Francis.

The strength of the jet stream depends on the temperature gradient between the regions of cold and warm air – the wider the difference, the faster and stronger the jet stream.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, an effect enhanced when the sea ice that normally cools the Arctic air melts away. Because of this, the air currents that come from that region are getting disproportionately warmer too, narrowing the temperature difference between the Arctic and southerly winds, and thereby weakening the jet stream itself. “The winds have weakened by 10 per cent over the past three decades in the west-to-east wind of the jet stream,” says Francis.

Francis thinks that, as the cool air of the Arctic becomes warmer, the jet stream is slowing down, almost to the point of stopping trapping weather systems in one place for prolonged periods. Instead of swirling round the world, winds reverberate back and forth in the same place, creating what she calls “extreme waves”.

  1. February 10, 2016 12:34 pm

    The idea is to get people thinking man is altering the behaviour of jet streams, which is total junk. They won’t be featuring the solar wind much in their phoney ‘science’.

  2. February 10, 2016 1:16 pm

    His 2013 paper is almost the same :BBC report

    GreenBlob : It’s more about propaganda, than science.
    I quote from the abstract

    Clear-air turbulence is linked to atmospheric jet streams6, 7, which are projected to be strengthened by anthropogenic climate change8. However, the response of clear-air turbulence to projected climate change has not previously been studied. Here we show using climate model simulations that clear-air turbulence changes significantly within the transatlantic flight corridor when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is doubled.

    BH aslo covers PW today

  3. February 10, 2016 1:28 pm

    The NET change in transatlantic round trip time (according to the paper) is a mere 1.5 minutes, which has been hyped-up into a big number of total hours per year and dutifully reported on the BBC World Service radio as being very significant.

    But this is peanuts compared with the total expected increase in air-travel, as countries such as China, India and Brazil develop US levels of internal aviation.

    This is a classic example of a meal at a climate change cafe, with all the ingredients: models, hype, and a compliant media only too willing to dish it up.

  4. NeilC permalink
    February 10, 2016 1:49 pm

    This is just another load of rubbish from AGW activists.

    If you are writing a paper on the effects of the jet stream and aircraft flights, surely you should understand some basics about aviation. Pilots frequently change their routing to avoid strong head winds, to save fuel and keep to slot times. They also use the jet stream when flying west to east, again to minimise fuel use.

    Similar, lack of study in his last paper about clear air turbulence (CAT). When planes experience severe turbulence, they ask air traffic controllers to go up or down a few thousand feet to avoid.

    Both papers based on the fantasy of unvalidated models.

    And the gullible BBC build these fairytales up without a jot of investigation or common sense.

    • Roger Cole permalink
      February 10, 2016 2:41 pm

      The BBC is not gullible, it is complicit.

    • February 11, 2016 5:17 pm

      I understand that wind and turbulence affects fuel consumption, but aren’t jets capable of flying in strong winds? Will a headwind slow down a 747? It doesn’t a car…..

      • Billy Liar permalink
        February 11, 2016 10:36 pm

        NeilC, it doesn’t matter whether you keep to slot times or not, there will more than likely be a delay at the end of your flight at busy times.

        Realitycheck, that was sarc wasn’t it? If it wasn’t, you have to realise that since the jet’s wheels are in its belly when it’s aloft it can only maintain (ground) speed against a headwind by burning more fuel, in the same way that you have to open the throttle in a car to maintain speed against a headwind.

      • February 11, 2016 10:57 pm

        No, it wasn’t sarcasm. You seem to be saying what I did—the jet can go faster, it just takes more fuel. Is there a point at which the wind actually slows the jet no matter how far open the throttle? The point of the article seemed to be that the plane could not fly faster and everyone would spend more time on planes no matter what if the wind speeds increased.

  5. Kelvin Vaughan permalink
    February 10, 2016 2:32 pm

    But the oil price has crashed so the ticket prices should be cheaper now.

  6. February 10, 2016 2:48 pm

    Good point Paul. And even if you go up to the next level, TTS, centred at about 10km, the trends are the same way round, though very small: 0.098K/decade at the poles and 0.055K/decade at Northern midlatitudes.

  7. David Richardson permalink
    February 10, 2016 3:32 pm

    Just amazing really. Meteorologically it makes sense that if the Arctic warms more than the equatorial regions any effect would be to lessen the strength of the Jet Stream due to the decreased temperature gradient – good luck with measuring the Jets over a long enough time period to show any significance.

    Perhaps a good one for

    And then adding it to the Warmlist

    • David Richardson permalink
      February 10, 2016 3:41 pm

      I have just sent it to climate change predictions – some of the other “having it both ways” are quite amusing – if that is the right word for it.

  8. BLACK PEARL permalink
    February 10, 2016 4:09 pm

    Well its been a while since the COP21 Coven where McGrath after a sabbatical state side & came back with a garbage truck load of climate change reports to post leading up to it. Wonder if he’d been at some sort of Climate Boot Camp in the hills & descended with the tablet of 10 thou shalt Not climate commandments ?
    Nice to see he’s not being entirely idle for the wages we pay him

  9. February 10, 2016 5:06 pm

    It’s quite scandalous that this kind of rubbish gets printed and outrageous that the BBC which has a legal requirement to impartiality keeps being one of the most blatant sources global warming propaganda.

    The BBC is wholly corrupt and should be closed.

    • BLACK PEARL permalink
      February 10, 2016 5:12 pm

      Just been monitoring the New Hampshire election results on BBC with what seemed to be lots of positive Trump comments .. & they pulled it !

  10. February 10, 2016 10:46 pm

    ‘The researchers say the extra CO2 is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 7,000 British homes.’

    Or to put it another way, naff all.

  11. February 11, 2016 4:02 pm

    Even if we assume the claims of a faster jetstream due to AGW are correct, it still isn’t a gimme that round trip flights will burn more fuel. The important thing is that the jetstream is exactly that – a stream – and not an atlantic-wide and atmosphere-deep universal flow. Air navigation and real-time weather information is now improved dramatically over just a few years ago, and will improve further. Pilots will be able to take the fullest advantage of the increased stream westbound, whilst navigating expressly to avoid its worst excesses in the eastbound direction, by both routing and altitude adjustments.. And with new navigational freedoms for pilots coming along, so that the old airlanes can be increasingly dispensed with, I would be surprised not to see a net REDUCTION on journey times and fuel burn, should the AGW predictions come true.

    Oh, and that 90-second (groundspeed) round trip time increase that is mentioned. Is that corrected for airspeed choice trends amongst airlines, with a new generation of equipment they are flying, and with different and better calculations as to what best reduces fuel burn? I won’t bother to read the paper to find out.

  12. February 26, 2016 2:36 pm

    You may have heard that wind is a response to differences in air density. So it is with the jet stream. The laws of physics apply.

    The jet stream is actually a response to a dramatic reduction in the density of the air due to heating by ozone. Ozone levels climb in the winter hemisphere as the sun sinks lower in the sky because its susceptible to photolysis by UVB. Ozone partial pressure increases between about 50° and 70° of latitude, and especially so in the winter hemisphere. On the polar side of this ring of ozone rich air cold air inside the polar vortex provides a strong contrast in density. So, the near polar arm of the jet stream is marked by the edge of the polar vortex. On the tropical margin of the ozone rich air there is again a contrast with denser air that contains little ozone. So, this is where we see the subtropical jet.

    Between about 50° and 70° of latitude ozone heating above 500 hPa gives rise to what are described as ‘cold core polar cyclones’. But no cyclone can form on a cold core. The warm core is aloft. The result is a rapidly ascending column of air that rotates in west to east direction in both hemispheres. Wind speeds increase from 500hPa in elevation reaching intensities that are only matched by tropical cyclones.

    So, if one is interested in the strength of the jet stream one should map and measure the distribution of ozone in the atmospheric column.

    Polar cyclones have dry warm cores and owe little to the release of latent heat, the chief driver of tropical cyclones.

    You’ve never heard this before. Exactly. No, its not part of the climate literature.It’s not in the works of the IPCC. That’s because these poor benighted fools haven’t got a clue.

    Moore here:

    So, the notion that the jet stream will be affected by the change in the density of the air due to CO2 is just nonsense. Unlike ozone, CO2 is well mixed. both are absorbers of long wave radiation from the Earth itself. The presence of ozone accounts for the warmth of the stratosphere. But, you knew that.


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