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Global warming has fried BBC’s brains over flights to America

February 14, 2016

By Paul Homewood  





Good to see that Booker has picked up on my post the other day about how global warming was supposedly going to lead to longer Atlantic flights:


Climate sceptics” have been entertained by the extravagant coverage given by the BBC to the finding of a Reading University computer model that, thanks to climate change, airliners will take longer to cross the Atlantic. The computer found that a “doubling of atmospheric CO2” will increase the speed of the “jet stream”, adding an hour or two to flight times between Britain and America, thus requiring more fuel and thus causing air fares to rise.

Apart from the curious assumption that “atmospheric CO2” could double from its current 0.04 per cent, and the fact that airliners can drop out of the jet stream if it is against them, the model predicts that it would somehow be speeded up by the growing difference between heat at the tropics and cold at the poles.

But air temperatures in the Arctic have been rising faster than in the tropics, thus reducing the difference, not increasing it. The computer’s finding thus contradicts one of the basic tenets of global warming theory. What the BBC also failed to mention is that even its predicted rise in air fares would be very much less than that air passenger duty, designed to halt global warming, which currently adds between £73 and £438 to the price of a ticket.


My original post, along with graphs, is here.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    February 14, 2016 4:35 pm

    “The computer found that a “doubling of atmospheric CO2” will increase the speed of the “jet stream”, adding an hour or two to flight times between Britain and America, ”

    I don’t know where Booker sourced those duration figures, the time differences are shown in minutes seconds in Table 1 – all of 33 – 93 seconds longer on a 12-hour round trip:

    • Joe Public permalink
      February 14, 2016 5:01 pm

      Max delay actually 111 seconds.

    • February 14, 2016 7:33 pm

      The BBC claim was that outward flights would increase by an hour or two, and return flights would reduce by nearly as much

      • Joe Public permalink
        February 14, 2016 8:42 pm

        Hi Paul

        From the description within Table 1 in the link I provide above:

        “Table 1.
        Average journey times between JFK and LHR. The mean durations of the eastbound and westbound minimum-time routes are tabulated for the specified season and pressure level. The routes are calculated using a pre-industrial control simulation (CTL) and a doubled-CO2 simulation ( CO2) from the GFDL CM2.1 climate model over 20 years. The seasons are winter (DJF; 1 December to 28 February), spring (MAM; 1 March to 31 May), summer (JJA; 1 June to 31 August), and autumn (SON; 1 September to 30 November). Raw times are shown in hours:minutes:seconds and time differences are shown in minutes:seconds.”

        [My bold]

        i.e. the right-hand column.

      • February 14, 2016 9:04 pm

        According to Matt McGrath:

        While eastbound flights from the US will be quicker, roundtrip journeys will “significantly lengthen”

        Misrepresentation from the BBC!

        Who would have thought?

  2. Jos permalink
    February 14, 2016 4:48 pm

    If you look carefully in the original paper (e.g. figure 1) you will see that it is actually not an increase in the jet-stream strength but a shift in the jet-stream location causing the changes in travel time. Furthermore, they only looked at flights London – New York.

    This leaves a number of problems.

    [1] they should have considered other flight trajectories. I’m pretty sure that there are some winners and losers if you were to consider other flight trajectories.

    [2] since it is assumed that the jet stream should weaken – and/or become more erratic – it is the total of all flights that matters, not just one particular trajectory.

    [3] next question is how other climate models project the jet-stream changes. That would give you some idea whether this is a robust result.

    Without these consideration it is just a story: if the jet stream along the flight trajectory from New York to London – and back – increases in strength due to a shift in the jet stream location then you can expect flights to take longer and burn more fuels.

    Totally obvious, and adding little to our knowledge.

    Furthermore, the suggestion by the authors that this is further evidence of the two-way interaction between aviation and climate (aviation causing climate change having effects on climate) is utter nonsense, the contribution to global CO2 emissions by aviation is and remains fairly small (couple of %). Suggesting that the change in jet stream location/strength is caused by aviation emissions is totally unsupported.

    Sensation Seeking Science/Scientists.

    • February 14, 2016 9:09 pm

      According to the authors:

      “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.”

      Or to put it another way, they are lying through their teeth!

  3. February 14, 2016 5:41 pm

    As stated on the other thread: one man’s headwind is another man’s tailwind.

    Bring on the next climate hobgoblin.

  4. manicbeancounter permalink
    February 14, 2016 7:09 pm

    I saw this after posting on comment about Fairbourne, the village to sue over plans to abandon the village. The local action group was set up mostly to complain about BBC reporting.
    The BBC states that maintenance of flood defenses will be stopped in 2025. By then the plan estimates sea levels will have risen 1-2 inches.
    The BBC then states that 400 homes will be abandoned by 2055. By then the plan estimates sea levels will have risen by 14 inches.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    February 14, 2016 8:59 pm

    That report’s author, professor Paul D Williams states:

    “We also calculate that the probability of a westbound crossing taking over 7 h 00 min nearly doubles from 8.6% to 15.3%, suggesting that delayed arrivals in North America will become increasingly common.”

    [My italics]

    Simple, free, solution: Add a few minutes to ‘Expected arrival times’.

    • February 14, 2016 9:12 pm

      It’s the usual “tail of the probability curve” they are talking about.

      Put simply, the chances of a 7 hour crossing may be the same as they were for a 6.59 crossing under other circumstances.

      But I do love the “pre-industrial” scenario! Has it not occurred to the idiots that we would not have planes at all under a “pre-industrial scenario”!

      • February 15, 2016 10:29 am

        No worse than the ex-religious affairs correspondent who held the B BC online “Environment Correspondent” sinecure for a few years – who asserted that parrots were telepathic and could read human minds …

        It’s amazing what sort of talent you can get for £50k+ plus exes…..

  6. February 15, 2016 6:07 pm

    As someone who crosses the pond around twice a year, the whole ‘climate change will extend flight times’ is garbage. I’ve been on flights into Vancouver that landed twenty five minutes early due to tailwinds over the Arctic, and one that was delayed forty five minutes into Heathrow because of Air traffic control congestion, with an additional half hour wait on the tarmac for our gate to be cleared after we landed.

    The press release is just pointless alarmism. Reading University? Airfix have better climate models.

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