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Global Warming Causing Airline Turbulence!

September 11, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




And guess what, it’s due to climate change!

From the Guardian:


United Airlines Flight 880 was carrying more than 200 passengers from Houston, Texas, to London’s Heathrow airport two weeks ago when it was battered by turbulence that threw people on to the cabin ceiling. Twenty-three people were injured. “We were flying along as smooth as can be and then were just slapped massively from the top as if someone had torpedoed us,” one passenger told journalists.

The aircraft, a Boeing 767-300, made an emergency landing at Shannon airport and the injured were taken to University Hospital, Limerick. No one was seriously hurt but all went through a terrifying experience and one, say experts, which will increasingly affect flights.


“It is predicted there will be more and more incidents of severe clear-air turbulence, which typically comes out of the blue with no warning, occurring in the near future as climate change takes its effect in the stratosphere,” Dr Paul Williams, a Royal Society research fellow at Reading University, said last week. “There has already been a steady rise in incidents of severe turbulence affecting flights over the past few decades. Globally, turbulence causes dozens of fatalities a year on small private planes and hundreds of injuries to passengers in big jets. And as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere keep on rising, so will the numbers of incidents.”

Williams said that at heights of around 10 to 12km (6-7 miles), a typical cruising altitude for a modern passenger jet plane, temperature changes caused by increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have the effect of making different layers of airflow move at increased speeds relative to each other. When this unstable airflow produces clear-air turbulence – and there are no visual clues to give a pilot warning of what lies ahead – then the aircraft is thrown about with considerable force. “If the effect is severe, it will overcome the force of gravity and fling people out of their seats. Turbulence of this severity is being encountered by planes thousands of times a year now,” Williams added.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that the damage, delays and disruption from turbulence already cost more than $500m (£374m) a year. And all studies suggest that incidents are getting more frequent. For example, in 2006, the US Federal Aviation Administration reported that the number of incidents in which turbulence caused serious accidents in US flights more than doubled between 1982 and 2003. Crucially, that figure includes adjustments made for the rise in numbers of flights produced by the growth of the aviation industry. “Several other studies have produced the same, consistent pattern of a considerable rise in incidents of turbulence – even after adjusting for the aviation industry’s growth,” added Williams.

As to actions that should be taken, Williams is clear. “Always keep your seat belt fastened. I never used to bother until I started studying incidents of turbulence and the injuries involved. Of course, that won’t protect you from someone else getting thrown in the air and landing on you, but it will substantially minimise your chances of getting hurt.”

As to tackling turbulence, limiting carbon dioxide emissions would be an obvious move, he added, though this remains a problematic political goal. More direct measures would be to improve the science of turbulence prediction and to find better meteorological algorithms for forecasting such incidents. Williams said that at present, the science involved had not reached the required precision for forecasting where and when turbulence might strike, but it was improving all the time.

“Engineers are also working on a technique that involves shining ultraviolet light along the path that a plane is taking,” added Williams. “Then you analyse the reflections that come back to the craft. From that, it has been found you can tell when you are likely to hit a turbulence pocket of air that is going to give the aircraft a severe buffeting.”

The problem is that retrofitting all the passenger aircraft currently in operation with ultraviolet detection systems would – at present – cost more than the expense that turbulence imposes on the air travel industry.

“It is currently too expensive for airlines. However, as more carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere, more turbulence disrupts flights, and more passengers get hurt, then we might see some action,” added Williams. “This problem is not going to go away.”


Readers may recall that Paul Williams is the same guy who claimed that the jet stream was getting stronger a few months ago, even though other junk scientists such as Jennifer Francis and John Holdren say the opposite is happening.

It is also the same Paul Williams who has been in receipt of £700K worth of Royal Society Fellowship grants since 2009.


Unfortunately for the credibility of Dr Williams, he also wrote this paper in 2013:




In it, he states:







Worse still, FAA statistics show no evidence at all of turbulence worsening, despite air travel becoming more common:





In the Guardian comments, an airline pilot, John Smith, totally destroys Williams’ so-called science: 





When so much money is at stake, is it any wonder we get so much junk science?

  1. AlecM permalink
    September 11, 2016 4:13 pm

    This may be partially true insofar s one of the control mechanisms that keeps surface CO2-AGW at near zero is an increase of convective clouds, translating into more stratospheric turbulence. However, it is not that much of an increase……

  2. markl permalink
    September 11, 2016 4:18 pm

    The powers of “Climate Change” are amazing. All you have to do is find an anomaly …any will do…. and voila’. As a bonus you get a new ‘normal’.

  3. Billy Liar permalink
    September 11, 2016 4:23 pm

    ‘Atmospheric scientist’ Paul Williams, contradicted himself 6 months ago saying the apparent increase in turbulence could be due to social media!

    By commenter ‘freescience’ on the Guardian article:

    Is this the same Paul Williams, atmospheric scientist who was reported in March as follows?:

    Instead, Williams argues that turbulence likely seems more frequent right now not because of global warming, but because of social media. People taking videos of turbulence and sharing them around could easily make it seem like turbulence is worse now than ever before, he said

    And from hard data in the same article:

    The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, keeps a record of every turbulence-related injury that airlines report each year. Alas, in the FAA’s most recent tallies that they sent to HuffPost, their record doesn’t suggest any major changes in turbulence-related injuries within the past few years.

  4. September 11, 2016 4:48 pm

    Obviously they have failed to notice that this so called “warming” has burned the Liberal brain!

  5. CheshireRed permalink
    September 11, 2016 5:27 pm

    Is there no end to the magical capabilities of CO2, the super-hero wonder gas? It can do more than Batman and Superman. All hail CO2. We’re not worthy.

  6. September 11, 2016 5:45 pm

    In 1968 my parents and I boarded a plane bound from Pittsburgh to San Francisco on our way to Japan, Thailand and Australia. It took some time for clean-up from the turbulence encountered between NYC and Pittsburgh. When we were allowed to board there were still some food stains on the ceiling and a piece of lettuce on the top of the headrest on the seat in front of mine. How could this be? Turbulence in the 1960’s?

    We are teaching folks to be such hand-wringing snowflakes that anything the least uncomfortable is cause for a crisis. Handy.

  7. September 11, 2016 6:20 pm

    If our ancestors were as wimpy as we currently are, we’d still be standing on the beach looking out over the ocean.

  8. September 11, 2016 6:51 pm

    I recently heard a comment that after the 9/11 attack when aircraft were grounded for a few days, the local temperatures increased significantly due to the lack of contrails. Is this true or one of the many myths that abound in all aspects of AGW?

    Of course, “Turbulence is not related to AGW” has no excitement to publishers.

    • AlecM permalink
      September 12, 2016 10:37 am

      1 K increase; a genuine effect but highly localised.

  9. September 11, 2016 6:56 pm

    Of course, it could be something to do with the increase in the number of flights worldwide, coupled with the fact that every time someone gets a little bumpy, they let they whole world know on farcebook or twatter.

    “Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) released Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders, a detailed report on the aviation industry, in April 2014.

    The report shows that there are 37.4 million flights scheduled in 2014! That is up 2.7% from 2013. And it means an average of 102,465 flights per day.

    The number of daily flights has never before passed 100,000.

    In 2013 we saw “only” 99,726 flights per day.”

  10. CheshireRed permalink
    September 12, 2016 8:21 am

    Surely this story poses some highly relevant questions?
    A well-rewarded ‘climate scientist’ promotes his study asserting yet more CO2-caused problems.
    A highly experienced pilot flatly contradicts the ‘climate scientist’.
    By default the pilots professional peers – ‘thousands of pilots from around the world who discuss on airline / pilots forms’ are NOT talking about this alleged ‘serious’ problem.
    That’s a kind of reverse peer review. (The dog that didn’t bark and all that)
    Under what circumstances was this ‘study’, now completely challenged and already fatally discredited by a professional pilot with decades of experience, 1. commissioned? 2. who by? and 3. Why?
    Is this ‘climate scientist’ subject to FOI requests?
    Perhaps a request for his work emails – presumably covered under work / professional access rights, would be in order?

  11. 4 Eyes permalink
    September 13, 2016 10:22 am

    Yep. Beat up anything and get a grant. Beat it down and get a grant. It says a lot about the bureaucrats and their ignorant political masters.

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