Climate Change May Limit Aircraft Take-Offs In The Coming Decades

Too hot to fly? muratart/Shutterstock

While these temperatures mainly impacted some of American Airlines’ smaller jets with less powerful engines, bigger jets will also be affected if temperatures scorch ever higher.

"This points to the unexplored risks of changing climate on aviation," said co-author Radley Horton, a climatologist at Columbia University, in a statement. "As the world gets more connected and aviation grows, there may be substantial potential for cascading effects, economic and otherwise." 

The authors estimate that if emissions continue to rise at their current rate, fuel capacities and payload weights will need to be reduced by around 4 percent for certain aircraft on swelteringly hot days. This amounts to roughly 12 to 13 fewer passengers on an average 160-seat craft.

This is a double-edged sword for the aviation industry, as they are one of the major producers of carbon dioxide. Since pre-Industrial times, global temperatures have risen by 1°C (1.8°F), with much of that change occurring after 1980. 

Steps can be taken: airlines can make longer runways, schedule flights during cooler temperatures, avoid mid-day heat surges, reduce the number of passenger seats available, and even redesign aircrafts.

In the case of climate change though, let’s not fly away with flights of fancy – it is a real and pressing threat.

A number of factors influence air travel during triple-digit temperatures, including the location of the airport, runway length, outside temperature, and design of the plane. Alexander Yu. Zotov/Shutterstock


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