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Climate Change Could Equal Teeth-Rattling Flights

Buckle up — climate change could make this a bumpy flight.

That's according to a newly published study by two British scientists who say increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will make "clear air turbulence" — which can't be easily spotted by pilots or satellites — more common over the North Atlantic. That means the potential for gut-wrenching flights between the U.S., Europe and points east.

According to Scientific American, researchers Paul D. Williams and Manoj M. Joshi, "used computer simulations to fast-forward to the year 2050. They fed that future climate data to 21 turbulence-predicting algorithms."

According to the BBC:

"The modelling suggested the average strength of transatlantic turbulence could increase by between 10% and 40%, and the amount of airspace likely to contain significant turbulence by between 40% and 170%, where the most likely outcome is around 100%. In other words, a doubling of the amount of airspace affected.

" 'The probability of moderate or greater turbulence increases by 10.8%,' said Dr Williams."

The possible consequences go beyond mere passenger discomfort and could well show up on the bottom line for airlines, Williams tells the BBC.

"It's certainly plausible that if flights get diverted more to fly around turbulence rather than through it then the amount of fuel that needs to be burnt will increase," Williams says. "Fuel costs money, which airlines have to pay, and ultimately it could of course be passengers buying their tickets who see the prices go up."

Some 600 flights crisscross the North Atlantic corridor each day, according to the BBC reports.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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