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article imageClimate change will force airlines to rethink long-range plans

By Karen Graham     Jul 15, 2017 in Environment
Just last month, airlines in Phoenix, Arizona were forced to cancel some flights because it was too hot for planes to take off. Now, a new study suggests this is going to occur more often as the planet continues to warm.
In a study published in the online journal Climate Change on July 13, a global analysis, the first of its kind, found that in the not too distant future, rising temperatures due to global warming will make it harder for aircraft around the world to take off.
During the hottest part of the day, the study found that airlines will find that 10 to 30 percent of fully loaded planes will need to remove some fuel, cargo or passengers, or delay flights by waiting for cooler weather before they can fly, reports Reuters.
"Our results suggest that weight restriction may impose a non-trivial cost on airline and impact aviation operations around the world," said lead author Ethan Coffel, a Columbia University Ph.D. student.
An Emrirates Airlines aircraft  flight 215 from Dubai  comes in for a landing at Los Angeles Interna...
An Emrirates Airlines aircraft, flight 215 from Dubai, comes in for a landing at Los Angeles International Airport on March 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California
Frederic J. Brown, AFP/File
What happens when it gets too hot to fly?
Basically, as the air warms, it spreads out, becoming less dense. This results in less lift-generation by an airplane's wings at a given airspeed as the aircraft gathers speed along the runway, making it difficult to rise off the runway. This problem was addressed last month by Digital Journal when flights were grounded in Phoenix, Arizona.
And based on performance models for five commercial aircraft and 19 airports around the world, along with projections of daily temperatures using the CMIP5 model suite, the study found that average restrictions ranging from 0.5 to 4.0 percent of total aircraft payload and fuel capacity will be required by the mid- to late century.
The scientists found that there are still a number of risks related to a changing climate that needs to be explored by the airline industry. Coauthor Radley Horton, a climatologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory says, "As the world gets more connected and aviation grows, there may be substantial potential for cascading effects, economic and otherwise."
Collectively  about 180 air carriers operate about 2 000 US-bound flights each day   carrying some 3...
Collectively, about 180 air carriers operate about 2,000 US-bound flights each day, carrying some 325,000 passengers
RINGO CHIU, AFP/File
Air turbulence caused by warming climate
Digital Journal reported on a study of air turbulence and its effects on air travel in April this year. The study found that the average amount of light turbulence felt by passengers today will have increased by 59 percent, moderate by 94 percent, and severe by 149 percent by the middle of the century.
The increase in turbulence is due to the uneven warming patterns in the jet stream, and as the temperature continues to warm, it will make it more disordered and stronger, creating, even more, turbulence. This scenario will increasingly make air travel much more dangerous, requiring passengers to wear seat belts at all times.
Is it time for the Airline industry to adapt to climate change?
The study found that both mid-sized and large aircraft will be affected, and airports with short runways and high temperatures, or those at high elevations, will see the largest impacts. New York’s LaGuardia and Washington’s Reagan-National airports fared poorly in the study because of short runways, and Dubai's airport fared poorly because it is already facing extreme heat.
Air India aircraft are seen parked on the tarmac of Mumbai airport
Air India aircraft are seen parked on the tarmac of Mumbai airport
Punit Paranjpe, AFP/File
The aviation and airline industry needs to start including climate change in their mid to long-range planning now. Global warming will affect not only the length of runways but also the location of airports because so many of them are close to the coastline in many countries.
Additionally, according to the study, the aviation and airline industry may need to look into new engine or body designs, as well as adapting flight schedules, cargo limits or the number of passengers on flights. This could force the aviation industry to brace for thinner profit margins, say the authors, adding that the cost of delays and other disruptions on the airline industry will have a trickle-down effect on other sectors of the economy.
“I’ve yet to see a benefit of climate change to aviation,” says atmospheric scientist Paul Williams, who believes it’s high time for the airline industry to prepare and adapt," according to Wired.
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