Climate change is speeding our jet streams up; could result in more extreme weather and shakier flights

Advertisement
Climate change is speeding our jet streams up; could result in more extreme weather and shakier flights
A recent study unveils that, with the planet's warming, the jet stream—those potent, high-altitude winds steering our weather — is poised for a substantial acceleration.
Advertisement

Envision the jet stream as a colossal, high-altitude motorway for weather systems, impacting everything from air temperature to storms and monsoons. Scientists project that climate change will propel these winds to quicken by up to 2% for every Celsius degree of Earth's warming, surpassing the average wind acceleration rate twofold.

Picture crossing the Atlantic with a tailwind; future transatlantic flights may enjoy increased speed and fuel efficiency. Yet, there's a trade-off: accelerated winds mean heightened turbulence, potentially resulting in a bumpier ride for passengers. The acceleration of these winds stems from Earth's energy imbalance. As the planet warms, the contrast between polar cold, dense air and tropical warm, lighter air intensifies, creating a steeper "pressure gradient" propelling the jet stream like a colossal engine.

Professors Tiffany Shaw of the University of Chicago and Dr Osamu Miyawaki of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, utilizing climate models and physical principles, identified the intensification of density contrast as the primary driver of the jet stream's acceleration. This effect remains robust, persisting even when ocean currents or land are excluded from the climate models.

While this study is a significant stride, further research is imperative to comprehend the precise impact of these accelerated winds on weather patterns and extreme events. Advanced, high-resolution climate models are under development to portray these events more accurately, offering a clearer glimpse into the future.

Advertisement

One certainty emerges: the jet stream is poised for a substantial power-up, exerting a profound influence on our planet, presenting both positive and negative outcomes. While quicker flights may be a potential advantage, we must brace for drawbacks like heightened turbulence and more extreme weather events.

The detailed findings of this study are available in Nature Climate Change.
{{}}