New research on climate change published in Environmental Research Letters (article here) suggests that flight durations may change as a result of the speeding up of the jet stream.

The study points out that while “the impacts of aviation on climate change have long been recognised… the impacts of climate change on aviation have only recently begun to emerge”.

Among the effects already identified are “intensified turbulence and increased take-off weight restrictions” (the research is here), but the article goes on to discuss what climate change will do to the prevailing jet-stream winds.

The research suggests that from London to New York, crossings in winter will be twice as likely to take over seven hours, while the return journey will be much quicker, at under five hours 20 minutes.

Overall the research finds that flights will be adversely affected and the extra fuel burn from longer flight durations will cause more emissions.

“Even assuming no future growth in aviation, the extrapolation of our results to all transatlantic traffic suggests that aircraft will collectively be airborne for an extra 2000 hours each year, burning an extra 7.2 million gallons of jet fuel at a cost of US$22 million, and emitting an extra 70 million kg of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 7100 average British homes. Our results provide further evidence of the two-way interaction between aviation and climate change.”

Professor Williams also believed that there would be significant delays to passengers as a result of these changes.

To hear the author discussing his findings, see here.