Surging heat may limit aircraft takeoffs globally

July 13, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Rising temperatures due to global warming will make it harder for many aircraft around the world to take off in coming decades, says a new study. During the hottest parts of the day, 10 to 30 percent of fully loaded planes may have to remove some fuel, cargo or passengers, or else wait for cooler hours to fly, the study concludes. The study, which is the first such global analysis, appears today in the journal Climatic Change.

"Our results suggest that weight restriction may impose a non-trivial cost on airline and impact aviation operations around the world," said lead author Ethan Coffel, a Columbia University PhD. student.

As air warms, it spreads out, and its density declines. In thinner air, wings generate less lift as a plane races along a . Thus, depending on aircraft model, runway length and other factors, at some point a packed plane may be unable to take off safely if the temperature gets too high. Weight must be dumped, or else the flight delayed or canceled.

Average global temperatures have gone up nearly 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 Fahrenheit) since about 1980, and this may already be having an effect. In late June, American Airlines canceled more than 40 flights out of Phoenix, Ariz., when daytime highs of nearly 120 degrees made it too hot for smaller regional jets to take off. Worldwide, average temperatures are expected to go up as much as another 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) by 2100. But that is only part of the story; heat waves will probably become more prevalent, with annual maximum daily temperatures at airports worldwide projected to go up 4 to 8 degrees C (7.2 to 14.4 F) by 2080, according to the study. It is these that may produce the most problems.

"This points to the unexplored risks of changing climate on aviation," said coauthor Radley Horton, a climatologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "As the world gets more connected and aviation grows, there may be substantial potential for cascading effects, economic and otherwise." Most studies so far have focused on how aviation may affect global warming (aircraft comprise about 2 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions), not vice versa. But a handful of studies have warned that warming climate may increase dangerous turbulence along major air routes, and head winds that could lengthen travel times. Rising sea levels are already threatening to swamp some major airports. Coffel and Horton may be the only ones so far to look at takeoffs.

In 2015, they published a smaller-scale paper, predicting up to four times more future temperature-related takeoff problems for the common Boeing 737-800 at Phoenix, as well as Denver, New York's LaGuardia and Washington's Ronald Reagan. The new study projects effects on a wide range of jets at these, plus 15 of the other busiest airports in the United States, Europe, the Mideast, China and south Asia.

The authors estimate that if globe-warming emission continue unabated, fuel capacities and payload weights will have to be reduced by as much as 4 percent on the hottest days for some aircraft. If the world somehow manages to sharply reduce carbon emissions soon, such reductions may amount to as little as 0.5 percent, they say. Either figure is significant in an industry that operates on thin profit margins. For an average aircraft operating today, a 4 percent weight reduction would mean roughly 12 or 13 fewer passengers on an average 160-seat craft. This does not count the major logistical and economic effects of delays and cancellations that can instantly ripple from one air hub to another, said Horton.

Some aircraft with lower temperature tolerances will far worse than others, and certain airports—those with shorter runways, in hotter parts of the world or at higher elevations, where the air is already thinner—will suffer more. For instance, facing LaGuardia's short runways, a Boeing 737-800 may have to offload weight half the time during the hottest days. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, might be worse; its runways are long, but its temperatures are already very high. Airports probably less affected because they are in temperate regions and have long runways include New York's JFK, London Heathrow and Paris's Charles de Gaulle.

Horton said that some effects could be mitigated with new engine or body designs, or expanded runways. But modifications would come at a cost, as aircraft are already highly engineered for efficiency; and expanded runways in densely packed cities such as New York are not an option. "The sooner climate can be incorporated into mid- and long-range plans, the more effective adaptation efforts can be," said Coffel.

Explore further: Researchers suggest global warming will cause more weight restriction days for airlines

More information: "The impacts of rising temperatures on aircraft takeoff performance," Climatic Change, 2017. DOI 10.1007/s10584-017-2018-9 , link.springer.com/article/10.1 … 07/s10584-017-2018-9

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Hot spot at Hawaii? Not so fast

August 18, 2017

Through analysis of volcanic tracks, Rice University geophysicists have concluded that hot spots like those that formed the Hawaiian Islands aren't moving as fast as recently thought.

Supervolcanoes: A key to America's electric future?

August 16, 2017

Most of the lithium used to make the lithium-ion batteries that power modern electronics comes from Australia and Chile. But Stanford scientists say there are large deposits in sources right here in America: supervolcanoes.

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up

August 16, 2017

Flow of the Greenland Ice Sheet is likely to speed up in the future, despite a recent slowdown, because its outlet glaciers slide over wet sediment, not hard rock, new research based on seismic surveys has confirmed. This ...

24 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bart_A
1.3 / 5 (13) Jul 13, 2017
These alarmist articles are precisely why so many scientists continue to doubt the validity of global warming. Picking and choosing a possible reason why we need to immediately scale down CO2 emissions is not good science. The overall picture is missing.

So, a few aircraft with lower temperature tolerances, taking off at certain airports with shorter runways, and probably that are in the middle of a desert, may suffer. Big deal. There are ways to mittigate this terrible suffering.

I believe most of the inconviences we suffer in flying today are due to cold, not heat. Too much ice, snow, etc. That is why airlines operating in the south have better on-time performance ratings.

Zzzzzzzz
4.4 / 5 (14) Jul 13, 2017
These alarmist articles are precisely why so many scientists continue to doubt the validity of global warming. Picking and choosing a possible reason why we need to immediately scale down CO2 emissions is not good science. The overall picture is missing.

So, a few aircraft with lower temperature tolerances, taking off at certain airports with shorter runways, and probably that are in the middle of a desert, may suffer. Big deal. There are ways to mittigate this terrible suffering.

I believe most of the inconviences we suffer in flying today are due to cold, not heat. Too much ice, snow, etc. That is why airlines operating in the south have better on-time performance ratings.


These denial postings are exactly why Climate Change Deniers are considered to be fecal regurgitators.
antigoracle
1.3 / 5 (12) Jul 13, 2017
More complete and utter bullshit from the AGW Cult
carbon_unit
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2017
No Bart, increasing problems like this are a consequence of burning fossil fuels and as a result, changing the atmosphere. BTW, last time I checked, LaGuardia is not in the middle of a desert.

Did anyone else get a bad image at "remove cargo, fuel or PASSENGERS"? "No, we're not overbooked sir, just overheated - now Get Off before I call our goon squad."

I wonder if it is possible to somewhat mitigate the problem with a system of water misters/sprayers along the runway? Wonder how much water it would take to make a meaningful difference (if making a difference is possible at all?)
axemaster
4.7 / 5 (12) Jul 13, 2017
These alarmist articles are precisely why so many scientists continue to doubt the validity of global warming.

I'm pretty much 100% sure that you don't have any contact with scientists.

Also, I don't read this article as alarmist. They are just pointing out some interesting side effects.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (10) Jul 13, 2017
Aircraft are already finding air doesn't support them. Chemtrails, spraying a variant of water that seems to have a high thermal inertia have caused patches of air around the world not to be able to support aircraft. Commercial airlines delay or cancel flights or "divert" around patches of denatured atmosphere. They use "incidents" from turtles crossing the airfield to an executive arguing because they're served nuts in a bag to a man running around in a Zorro costume to fights with staff over storing a birthday cake to create "delays" or "cancellations" and things like fights over leg room or a man trying to assemble a device involving circuitry on the cabin floor or a man naming his wifi hotspot after the Samsung Galaxy 7 to "justify" "diverting" to a different destination. The connection to global warming is there, though, since it's chemtrails, not "fossil fuels" that are causing climate change.
Lex Talonis
1.4 / 5 (9) Jul 13, 2017
Mmmmmmmmm The Bullshit....

"The authors estimate that if globe-warming emission continue unabated, fuel capacities and payload weights will have to be reduced by as much as 4 percent on the hottest days for some aircraft."

And the Authors routinely travel daily by jet to test their hypothesis?

As much as FOUR percent...... Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Hmmmmm

So if we tabulate the amount of jets travelling on average per anum, with the amount of total seats, divided by the ratio of occupied seats to unoccupied seats....

The difference is?

RealityCheck
3.3 / 5 (7) Jul 13, 2017
@Bart_A.
So, a few aircraft with lower temperature tolerances, taking off at certain airports with shorter runways, and probably that are in the middle of a desert, may suffer. Big deal.

I believe most of the inconviences we suffer in flying today are due to cold, not heat. Too much ice, snow, etc.
Are you not aware of the increasing occurrences of continent-scale 'heat dome' atmospheric phenomenon? These affect huge swathes of countries/airports at a time. The point is that this phenomena will become so prevalent as the planet becomes much hotter that it will be 'the new norm'.

As for 'cold problems' you allude to, they are far outweighed by 'heat problems' in form of insect/disease/pollution/extreme/extensive-storms etc which will become year-round menaces to health, transportation, agriculture, infrastructure etc, all of which developed 'factoring in' the 'current climate' patterns/costs/impacts.

Consider the wider/longer picture.

Rethink it all, Bart_A. :)
EmceeSquared
4.7 / 5 (12) Jul 13, 2017
Bart_A:
These alarmist articles are precisely why so many scientists continue to doubt the validity of global warming.


You lying trolls don't have "so many scientists". The few climate scientists out of thousands who accept global warming as a simple fact are almost all paid to "doubt" - possibly all of them. There might be a few outliers who just don't believe, because among humans there's one in every crowd.

This article isn't picking and choosing why we should decrease CO2. It merely reports a single effect of global warming. That you in fact agree is real in your post. You trolls are terrible at everything including lying.
EmceeSquared
5 / 5 (10) Jul 13, 2017
julianpenrod:
Chemtrails, spraying a variant of water that seems to have a high thermal inertia have caused patches of air around the world not to be able to support aircraft. [...] They use "incidents" from turtles crossing the airfield


You're a clinically deranged paranoid.
TrollBane
5 / 5 (7) Jul 13, 2017
"These denial postings are exactly why Climate Change Deniers are considered to be fecal regurgitators." Are you sure even fecal regurgitators want to be compared with the climate change deniers?
24volts
1.5 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2017
Airplane companies will simply end up building airplanes with wider wings to compensate for the lift loss. The trick will be to get the airlines to accept a set normal loading limit for when the airplane is not in a hot area because the plane will lift more than it's really designed to lift then.
howhot3
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 13, 2017
If the climate denier goon squad had half a brain cell, they might figure out that 1+1=2 and climate warming is deep doo doo for the planet. As one of the earlier poster said, since 1980 the globe has gotten 1C warmer (1.8F). The usual hot spots are feeling it worst like Phoenix. Folks, what is more bothersome is the fact that this CO2 heating lasts for 1000s of years. Once you go 4-5C there is no going back. Once a 1C change always 1C, once 2C always 2C, once 3C always 3C, once 4C akway 4C etc etc. Your have hear of the new normal, well there will be a lot of them as we progress to 2100.

Jet engine efficiency would also fall (less dense air to push/pull against) so do you denier see the problem here?
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2017
Airplane companies will simply end up building airplanes with wider wings to compensate for the lift loss


....

because the plane will lift more than it's really designed to lift then

erm ...

WTF?
Dug
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2017
Most of the design variables related to temperature in commercial aircraft more than compensate for unusually hot takeoff days. Additionally, modern flight computers automatically calculate payload capacities related to takeoff temperatures. While there is significant impact on reduced hot air density regarding flight performance, the article seems basically uninformed regarding general commercial aircraft hot air design factor compensations and operating protocols regarding takeoff air density. The biggest impact for aircraft in general will be greater fuel consumption for takeoffs in warmer climates.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2017
These denial postings are exactly why Climate Change Deniers are considered to be fecal regurgitators
Im sorry I just can't understand why a comment including the phrase 'fecal regurgitator' is worth nine 5/5s.

Hopefully it means there are only nine turds in the entire world who think it's clever but I'm probably being overly optimistic.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2017
wonder if it is possible to somewhat mitigate the problem with a system of water misters/sprayers along the runway?
No, if it's an enduring problem then over time aircraft design and operation will change to accommodate it. Wings a few inches longer, engines a little more efficient, planes a little lighter, etc.
24volts
4 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2017
It's very simple Stumpy. If plane companies make the wings wider (i didn't say longer but wider) to give more lift when it's hot and the air is thinner the plane will be technically able to carry more than it's designed for when the weather is cooler and the air is denser whether or not the frame has been upgraded to handle the possible extra weight. Some people will try to overload the plane then in order to make more money. It's human nature - people are basically greedy and companies with stockholders even more so. It's simple common sense that keeping companies from doing that will be hard to do. Do you understand now?
howhot3
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2017
These denial postings are exactly why Climate Change Deniers are considered to be fecal regurgitators
Im sorry I just can't understand why a comment including the phrase 'fecal regurgitator' is worth nine 5/5s.

Hopefully it means there are only nine turds in the entire world who think it's clever but I'm probably being overly optimistic.


@Otto... man.. I don't condone the words but I do condone the outrage. The deniers and right-wing nut jobs have done everything to obstruct real debate on climate warming. After years of this rightwing hatchet job on climate science, a little push back from scientists seems fair.
Freethinker51
1 / 5 (5) Jul 15, 2017
First of all, there is no global warming. You lefties have been brainwashed. Explain why Greenland hit a new record low temperature for July and why it is a little cooler elsewhere this summer despite being a little warmer in other places.

Second of all, if vehicles we send into space can be engineered to reenter without burning up, engineers can certainly figure out how to make aircraft compensate for temperatures of 125 F. We did figure out how to make Blackhawk engines tolerate sand clogging much better in Iraq. I inspected some of those revised jet engine parts.
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2017
It's very simple Stumpy. If plane companies make the wings wider (i didn't say longer but wider)...
@24
it was hilarious because:

if the company[ies] make the wings wider (i never said longer), it is then being redesigned

when something is redesigned in aircraft, there must be new engineering specifications and tests to be documented for contracts to insure the changed specs for QC/manufacture

this is then designed and you will issue additional blueprints/mylar for updated contracts (or a change order)

therefore it is, by design, able to carry [x] weight due to design and intent

.

so when you made the statement "because the plane will lift more than it's really designed to lift" it's nonsensical

it was quite funny, though, and it made me laugh

i only inquired because i thought you might actually be going for humour, but i see it's really just a faux pas due to ignorance of the topic
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2017
there is no global warming.
@freefromthought
the difference between stupidity and ignorance
ignorance is not knowing, but stupidity ignores easily found facts for the sake of ...??? what, exactly?
http://woodfortre...dcrut4gl

Explain why Greenland hit a new record low temperature
there is a difference between weather and climate
there is a huge difference between local weather and a global average temperature, which you just proved you don't know jack sh*t about and apparently can't comprehend even when repeatedly shown
despite being a little warmer in other places
you mean globally is just a few other places?
what kind of special stupid does one have to be to ignore the whole f*cking globe temperature rise average because the local weather in greenland was cool one year?

(and because you keep ignoring it, i will repeat: Francis et all was validated, you moron, or don't you know what that means in scientific circles?)
Shootist
1 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2017
Great Caesar's Ghost, there is no surging heat.

Research Team Slams Global Warming Data In New Report: "Not Reality... Totally Inconsistent With Credible Temperature Data"

http://www.zerohe...sistent-
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Jul 17, 2017
Idiots....

The AVERAGED ratio or percentage of filled seated to vacant seats = basically no difference.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.