Climate Change May Lead To Bumpier Airplane Rides, Study Finds

Climate Change May Lead To Bumpier Airplane Rides, Study Finds


The first study of global warming’s effects on clear-air turbulence offers some uncomfortable predictions.

By 2050, plane trips between the U.S. and Europe could take longer, use more fuel and be subject to more turbulence, according to a new study.

The study investigated clear-air turbulence, or turbulence that occurs in clear sky instead of inside clouds or near mountains. Clear-air turbulence is impossible for pilots to spot or radar to detect, but models do exist to predict where and when it will occur. Two climate researchers in the U.K. combined different models to come up with a calculation for how a doubling in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, compared to pre-industrial levels, could affect clear-air turbulence. (In one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s four possible future scenarios for climate change, carbon dioxide levels double by the middle of the 21st century.)

In the new hybrid model, twice as much carbon dioxide in the air would increase median clear-air turbulence strength along common transatlantic routes by 41 percent. Turbulence of at least moderate severity would happen 40 percent to 170 percent more often. Carbon dioxide increases strengthen jet streams, which are a major driving factor in clear-air turbulence.

Airline passengers won’t necessarily feel these exact numbers, as what passengers feel is mostly that stomach-dropping, up-and-down turbulence, which doesn’t always increase linearly with overall turbulence. Nevertheless, New York-to-London will probably get bumpier. The U.K. researchers cited two observational studies that suggested that transatlantic flights are already more turbulent than they used to be.

The researchers said avoiding increased turbulence spots could account for increased passenger jet fuel use and flight times.

This is the first time anyone has studied how global warming will affect clear-air turbulence, the researchers wrote in their paper,published today in the journal Nature Climate Change


Linked Renewables Could Help Germany Avoid Blackouts

Linked Renewables Could Help Germany Avoid Blackouts


WINDKRAFT: “Each source of energy–be it wind, sun or biogas–has its strengths and weaknesses. If we manage to skillfully combine the different characteristics of the regenerative energies, we can ensure the power supply for Germany.” – Kurt RohrigImage: Flickr/BlueRidgeKitties

LONDON – Critics of renewables have always claimed that sun and wind are only intermittent producers of electricity and need fossil fuel plantsas back-up to make them viable. But German engineers have proved this is not so.

By skillfully combining the output of a number of solar, wind and biogas plants the grid can be provided with stable energy 24 hours a day without fear of blackouts, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES) in Kassel.

For Germany, having turned its back on nuclear power and investing heavily in all forms of renewables to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, this is an important breakthrough.

The country has a demanding industrial sector that needs a large and stable electricity supply, and some doubted that this could be achieved in the long term without retaining nuclear or large fossil fuel plants.

Solving the problem is becoming urgent. The latest figures show that on some days of the year the electricity being generated from sun, wind, biomass, water and geothermal production already accounts for more than half of the load required in the country.

Entire electric grid
The research is funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment and is aimed at showing that the entire electricity grid could be run on renewable energy.

Kurt Rohrig, deputy director of IWES, said: “Each source of energy – be it wind, sun or biogas – has its strengths and weaknesses. If we manage to skillfully combine the different characteristics of the regenerative energies, we can ensure the power supply for Germany.”

The idea is that many small power plant operators can feed their electricity into the grid but act as a single power plant using computers to control the level of power.

Scientists linked together 25 plants with a nominal power output of 120 megawatts. Surplus power could be used for charging electric vehicles and for “pumped storage,” where water is pumped uphill into a reservoir to produce hydropower later.

When many small producers work together, then regional differences when the wind blows or the sun is intermittent are balanced out in the grid and can be boosted by controllable biogas facilities.

If there is too much surplus energy then the power can also be used to create and store thermal energy to be used later.

Dozens of small producers
Kasper Knorr, the project manager for the scheme, which is known as the Combined Power Plant2 research project, says the idea is to ensure that the consumer is supplied reliably with 230 volts at a frequency of 50 Hertz.

The current system of supplying the grid with electricity is geared to a few large producers. In the new system, with dozens of small producers, there will need to be extra facilities at intervals on the system to stabilize voltage. Part of the project is designed to find out how many of these the country will need.

The project has the backing of Germany’s large and increasingly important renewable companies and industrial giants like Siemans. Researchers will be demonstrating the system at the Hanover Trade Fair from April 8 to 13.

This article originally appeared atThe Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.

Nuclear Power Has Saved Millions of Lives, Report Says

Nuclear Power Has Saved Millions of Lives, Report Says


Nuclear power has gained a good-sized cheerleading squad as a source of clean energy, but the risk of radiation exposure and the disposal of nuclear waste have also roused a fair number of opponents. Reactor disasters like the one in Fukushima highlight nuclear power’s risks, but scientists now say that by reducing pollution, nuclear power actually has saved millions of lives over the last 40 years.

Using data from past energy production (1971-2009) and future energy predictions… Read more