The effects of our overheating planet have been wreaking havoc on people’s lives for years, and now they’ve taken a new victim: air travel.
In a video interview with CBS News, Amanda Hoover, a staff writer for Wired magazine, explained how Earth’s rising temperature keeps airplanes grounded.
In the summer of 2023, travelers worldwide experienced one of the worst travel seasons on record, with CBS reporting that data from Flight Aware showed more than 20,000 flights affected in one week alone.
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“There are a lot of ways climate change can affect air travel,” Hoover said in the video. “Thunderstorms are an obvious one. When there is more heat in the air, there is more moisture, more thunderstorms.”
Increased smoke from intense wildfires has also been an issue. “Plane navigation systems aren’t really designed to work well through wildfire smoke,” said Hoover.
She also cited invisible turbulence and high heat as reasons for delays and cancellations. In extremely high temperatures — that’s anything over 100 degrees — planes need more time and distance to take off to fight gravity.
Extreme heat can also cause runways to buckle, and Hoover even spoke of one instance when a plane’s wheel got stuck to a runway that had melted due to extreme heat.
Why are these cancellations concerning?
The reasons behind these delays and cancellations aren’t going away, meaning travel will be affected every summer, prompting CBS to warn that travelers may need to get used to it.
Rising temperatures caused by human activity have already caused areas across the country to experience intense storms, devastating wildfires, and record temperatures. As our planet continues to warm, its effects will worsen.
Not to mention, airlines are merely experiencing fallout from a problem they are a major contributor to. Aviation accounts for 2.5% of all carbon emissions, and domestic flights produce around six times more pollution of planet-warming gases than driving.
What can be done?
For one, planes need to be made more efficient. Hoover pointed out, however, that this is not a problem that will be solved quickly or easily, and it will take the cooperation of multiple groups around the world to find a solution. She also suggested that as the jet stream and wind patterns change, flight patterns and routes may also need to change.
As individuals, we can stop the overheating of our planet by avoiding single-use plastics, integrating clean energy at home, and taking public transportation, riding a bike, or upgrading to an electric vehicle.
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