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Brace yourself: Transatlantic flights set to be bumpier, costlier

By Qin Xie and Chuck Thompson, CNN
updated 9:34 PM EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Report says passengers should brace themselves for bumpier skies and costlier flights
  • It says climate change will increase turbulence over the North Atlantic, a popular route
  • The report is based on a climate model simulations, impact of changes in carbon dioxide levels

(CNN) -- Among all the woes of modern air travel -- cramped seating, extra charges for baggage, outrageous prices for airport food -- perhaps nothing frays the nerves of passengers faster than air turbulence.

Well, brace yourself for even bumpier skies. And costlier flights.

A pair of British scientists are predicting that the white-knuckle rocking and rolling at 35,000 feet is going to get worse.

Global warming may make flights bumpier

According to a paper published in the scientific journal, Nature, climate change will significantly increase turbulence over the North Atlantic, a popular route between North America and Europe.

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The report concludes that "journey times may lengthen and fuel consumption and emissions may increase" as a result.

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This means additional costs to airlines and, ultimately, passengers.

Currently, turbulence causes about $150 million a year in damages to planes and other expenses, said Paul Williams, one of the report's authors from the department of meteorology at the University of Reading. There's a high chance overall industry costs will rise as turbulence intensifies, he said.

The report is based on a study of climate model simulations that suggest changes in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will dramatically increase the jarring rattle, shake, shimmy and sudden drops known all too well to frequent fliers.

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"We only looked at winter, as this is when the jet stream is strongest, but we will look at other seasons in the future," said co-author Maoj Joshi, a lecturer in climate dynamics from the University of East Anglia.

Study results show that the area above the North Atlantic that will experience "significant" turbulence will double, explained Williams. "Significant" turbulence can be classified as turbulence that would prompt a pilot to turn on the seat belt sign, he said.

Joshi told CNN he expects to find similar results when the team looks at the North Pacific region, between Japan and the West Coast of the United States.

So, in addition to everything else, expect to hear that "keep your seat belt fastened" reprimand a little more often as you fly the shaky skies.

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