Shifting wind patterns caused by climate change could lengthen some airline flights, further raising carbon dioxide emissions.
Kristopher Karnauskas at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and his colleagues analysed the duration of 250,000 flights over the North Pacific and found that flight times varied with natural changes in wind speed at cruising altitude. Using climate models, the team predicts that climate change driven by greenhouse gases could cause part of the Pacific jet stream to shift into the corridor between Hawaii and the west coast of the continental United States, increasing average flight times on this route.
The authors warn that such changes would increase fuel consumption and CO2 emissions on this route and possibly for other flights globally, which would further drive climate change.
Nature Clim. Change http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2715 (2015)
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Changing winds mean longer flights. Nature 523, 258–259 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/523258d