Long-haul flights are starting to get longer because the high-altitude winds are beginning to be more erratic and thus making transcontinental flights longer because aircrafts have to stay in the air more, a recent study claims.
An increase in the travel time of long-haul flights can be connected with an increase in the jet stream variation, a high-altitude current that is present in the northern hemisphere, from east to west, researchers said.
This will not only be a nuisance to travelers but calculations also indicate that even the smallest increase in the return-flight time which are caused by wind direction and speed may have crucial implications in the consumption of fuel by the industry. The airline industry is already responsible for around 3.5 percent of all greenhouse gases.
Scientists believe that this may result in a global temperature increase and sent out a warning claiming that longer flights will eventually lead to a lot more fuel being used, a higher level of carbon dioxide emission and a lot more global warming and this could accelerate the change in climate.
Kris Karnauskas from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts said that the circulation patterns in upper winds are a crucial factor in flight times. Longer flights mean more fuel being used by airliners.
The study reviewed a database of flights between Hawaii and Honolulu and three US cities in the west coast – Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles – from four airlines. The researchers looked at the return flights of around 250,000 travels between these courses in the period between 1995 and 2013. The flow of the jet stream in the west from the northern hemisphere generally means that outgoing flights heading out from Honolulu are shorter than the other way around. This is also true for flights between the United States and Europe.
The researchers discovered that eastbound flights through the Pacific have become shorter by 10 minutes in the 18 year time period and the westbound flights have become longer by 11 minutes. This leads to a time increase in which the aircraft is in air. This is true in all four airlines analyzed.
The researchers made some calculations from which they concluded that if a round trip is longer by one minute, then the approximately 30,000 commercial flights every day in the United States will take 300,000 more hours in the air every year. This leads to the use of an additional one billion gallons of fuel, $3 billion higher costs and 10 billion more kilograms of carbon dioxide being released into the air.
The study was published in the Nature Climate Change journal.
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