Jan 7, 2020

Why should I care if climate change is messing up the jet streams?

Greg Hudson
The Hill
wonky jet stream causes turbulence

Signals Summary: Warming in the arctic due to climate change is creating wonky jet stream patterns that can cause a variety unusual and extreme weather events. In the U.S. this past fall, unusual jet stream patterns influenced the record cold across the country, particularly in the east.   

Article Excerpt: The jet stream winds are created when cold air from the poles moves towards the equator, gradually sinking along the way, and warm air moves north to take it place, gradually rising as it does so. 

But climate change is heating the poles faster than the equator, which is decreasing the temperature disparity between the two and messing up the jet stream.

On the ground, these changes can cause freezing cold and snow storms at airports that aren’t used to extreme weather. Up high, the unusual jet stream patterns are causing some challenging new conditions. The University of Reading predicts that by 2050, flights will experience 3 times more turbulence by 2050, which will lead to more inflight injuries.


Airplanes are already one of the world’s greatest producers of CO2, the most prevalent man-made greenhouse gas. 

But experts say that if changes in the jet stream add an average of just one minute to each flight in the air, that could use up an additional 1 billion gallons of jet fuel every year — which would add more than 20 billion pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere.