Climate change and increasing turbulence

The sad news of the tragedy on board a Singapore Airlines London - Singapore flight on which one person died and several were injured due to severe turbulence was recently confirmed. A phenomenon that is actually rare, but which is increasing due to climate change

A tragic event unfolded on a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore, where severe turbulence led to one death and several injuries. The airline has confirmed the incident, which involved the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members. Turbulence of this magnitude is rare but is reportedly on the rise due to climate change, explained Paul Williams, a professor at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

Flight details and emergency landing

Flight SQ321 departed from London Heathrow on May 20 and was bound for Singapore.

The intense turbulence encountered forced the plane to divert to Bangkok, where it landed at 3:45 PM local time on May 21. This marks the first such incident since December 28, 1997, when a similar event occurred on a United Airlines flight from Tokyo to Honolulu.

Insights on turbulence

Paul Williams, writing on the academic institute’s website, noted that turbulence-related fatalities on commercial flights are exceedingly rare, but unfortunately, they have increased today. Turbulence can be caused by storms, mountains, and strong air currents known as jet streams.

In this instance, it involved clear-air turbulence, which is particularly challenging to avoid as it cannot be detected by radar weather conditions in the cockpit. Detailed analysis of the weather circumstances and the specific type of turbulence that led to today’s fatality will take time.

Climate change and increasing turbulence

The outlook is quite bleak. There is now clear evidence that turbulence is increasing due to climate change. Recent findings indicate that severe clear-air turbulence in the North Atlantic has increased by 55% since 1979.

Future projections suggest a doubling or tripling of severe turbulence and jet streams in the North Atlantic in the coming decades if climate patterns continue as expected.

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