Ph.D. Meteorologist Documents Impact Of Global Warming On Turbulence


At a meeting of the American Meteorological Society earlier this year, a U.K. professor warned that 2023’s historically strong El Niño could powerfully affect aviation with increased clear air turbulence (CAT). Paul Williams is an Oxford-educated Ph.D.-level meteorologist who currently heads up a group of 30 atmospheric scientists at the University of Reading in the U.K. According to his bio, Williams’s work focuses on “atmospheric turbulence, jet streams, fluid dynamics, numerical modeling, and climate change, with a focus on weather-sensitive applications, including aviation.” He writes that he is particularly interested in how climate change affects aviation, “including the prospect of more turbulence.”

Compared with La Niña years that have the opposite effect, El Niño increases the incidence of wind shear—conflicting airflows that create severe turbulence not associated with visible storms caused by convective activity. Williams found “when there’s a strong El Niño event, there is 50 percent more moderate-or-greater CAT over large parts of the U.S. and the North Atlantic. And when there’s a strong La Niña event, there’s about 50 percent less moderate-or-greater CAT than normal.” Williams did note that the climate-based effects are not as strong in Europe.

But Williams’s research doesn’t stop with the predictable effects of warmer El Niño years or cooler La Niña interludes. In research conducted in 2019, he concluded that global warming across the board has demonstrably contributed to increased air turbulence, worldwide.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Now we simply await the onslaught from the anti-climate warming/fossil fuels are the best thing since marriage and my first bicycle peanut gallery comment section. I can name them one by one already.

    • “El Niño could” so says the resident expert. Is this “expert” an aviator?

      Sure sounds like a Las Vegas saying…woulda’ could’a…

    • Yeah…they call us “climate deniers”. Laughably ignorant term. We don’t deny the climate. We’re smart enough to realize the climate always has and always will change. Furthermore, has anyone yet determined what the optimum state of the climate is? Until this is determined, no one can tell us whether what they want us to do is helping or hurting.

  2. Doesn’t much affect the plebeians returning to their caves between treadmilling and gathering nuts/berries/tofu, but damned inconvenient when it spills the caviar enroute to the climate conference.

  3. “Williams did note that the climate-based effects are not as strong in Europe”

    Maybe that’s got more to do with politics than science.

  4. Worse compared to what? Where is the data and how did we quantify turbulence in the past in regard to when, where, and severity? Perhaps we are reporting more now than in the past due to the increase in reporting ability? Without more information, this appears to be an opinion rather than a data based conclusion.

    We should be skeptical of any scientific claims until the data are analyzed as completely as possible. Unfortunately, there is segment of both the political and scientific community that is working to rid us of skepticism… not good.

    • Oil bad, white man bad, USA bad. All of Europe would be speaking Russian if the USA hadn’t saved them during WW2. We were shipping England guns, planes, ammo, ships, and lots of oil and gasoline. I would expect nothing less from the UK.

      • If you will recall your history of WW2, the Russians and the Americans (and a lot of other countries, including the UK) fought on the same side against Germany, Italy and Japan.

        • My point is that if the USA hadn’t helped out the UK and Germany had retained control of mainland Europe, the Russians would have eventually pushed the Germans into the English Channel and controlled all of mainland Europe and maybe the UK also. The USA stepped in and prevented that. After saving all of Europe twice, they still hate us.

  5. Just my experience but the last ten years I flew airliners were much bumpier than the first 30 years I drove jets around America. One of the reasons I retired early.

  6. I just read the article by Mr. Paul Williams titled, Airplane turbulence may be worse than usual. I would like to know what research he is basing this on. I have just authored a book on turbulence and other causes of plane crashes titled: Science About How Tornadoes And Vortexes Form And How They Are Causing Planes To Crash (Including MH370), available from Barnes & Noble. If anyone wants to know what is happening and how to reduce to chances of flying into turbulence just read my book.
    Ronald B. Hardwig, Professional Engineer

    • That’s “Dr. Paul Williams” to you, Mr. Hardwig. Where and how has your self-published book been peer-reviewed? How many international meteorological or climate science organizations have endorsed your conclusions, which you admit you “just figured out”? The very fact that you weren’t aware of Dr. Williams’ research is prima facie evidence you are not very involved with the meteorological community in the first place.

      • Hint: The meteorological community (especially at the university level in the UK) get zero grants UNLESS the studies mention “climate change”. Basically that’s why peer review are tacitly worthless under those conditions.

        We saw the same thing several years ago when university professors were fired (or censored) if their research questioned mRNA safety. Peer review these days are almost worthless when the peers are all too scared to lose their paychecks and tenure.

  7. Let’s tag the words ‘WEATHER,’ as for short-term events, and ‘CLIMATE,’ as for long-term patterns, and accept the concept that long term patterns affect short term events such as weather.

    Now, turning our attention to Global Warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found a significant increase in global temperatures during the 20th century, with a rise of approximately 0.8 degrees Celsius compared to the 19th century. Furthermore, they warn that if we do not take substantial measures to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, we can expect global warming to exceed 1.5°C and 2°C during the 21st century perhaps as early as 2030. Watch out Florida!

    The IPCC’s assertion is well-founded and supported by various research studies, including ice core data, tree ring studies, and lake sediment records. This warming trend serves as the fundamental basis for more extreme short-term meteorological phenomena, such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, storms, tornadoes, wind shear, hurricanes, and other significant meteorological events in the nasty category affecting aeronautical socio-economics.

    • Let’s be clear, the IPCC was not created for the altruistic scientific study of climate change.
      Sober individuals take their “solutions” with a hundred weight of salt.

  8. Maybe we should figure out how to put corks in those volcanoes that inconveniently belch co2 into the atmosphere. Oh that’s right, climate change is man made. Silly me. The best solution therefore is to reduce the human population through whatever peer reviewed methods all you superior intellectuals deem appropriate. I’m sure you will spare yourselves since y’all are at the top of the food chain.

    • Scientists who have the instruments and knowledge to actually measure the scope of volcanic activity have confirmed that there is no increase in such activity on a global scale that would account for observed rise in global temperatures. Conversely we know to a high degree of accuracy how much CO2 has been emitted by fossil fuel burning since the beginning of the industrial era, and we know how long it takes that gas to be removed from the atmosphere by natural processes. The physics of rising global temperatures is well understood, and it’s clearly a result of fossil fuel burning and other human activities. Those of us who live in the western US see the results daily because our landscape is changing due to fire and forest die-off, at a speed that no-one has seen in recorded history. Most of what’s posted here is utter nonsense with no basis in fact. it’s not scientifically controversial that with higher temperatures, some things such as intensity of convective storms will increase. What does this community gain by pretending that this isn’t happening and mocking people who devote their life to studying these phenomena? The findings cited aren’t anti-aviation any more than the findings that western and boreal forests are in a heightened condition to burn are anti forest.

  9. While natural sources contribute to pollution, the overwhelming majority of pollution, especially the types that have the most significant environmental and health impacts (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution), are the result of human activities. It does not take much to understand that the sloppy decisions we make today will have long-lasting consequences for those around after we die. Ignoring climate change makes it more impactful and difficult to fix.

    • Calling co2 and water vapor a “pollutant” is laughable.
      Calling the few percent of the 400ppm released by people “significant” is ludicrous.
      Saying that the global earth climate is primarily driven by a few percent change of a trace gas is insanity.

      The logic used to arrive at the need to fixate on co2 is flawed.
      Ironically those who feel that there is a big problem and the population need to address it immediately are the ones who are the most headstrong as they chase down the wrong rabbit hole while calling everyone else foolish. Delicious irony.

  10. CO2 and water vapor, once benign,
    Now pollutants, a bane to humankind.
    Their excessive presence in the air,
    Causes harm, both near and far.

    Climate change, ocean acidification,
    Smog and acid rain, our degradation.
    These pollutants, though naturally found,
    In excess, wreak havoc all around.

    So let us not laugh at their plight,
    But take action to reduce our blight.
    Reduce our emissions, big and small,
    To protect our planet, one and all.

  11. As global warming grips the globe,
    Water vapor rises, a fiery robe.
    This greenhouse gas, a double-edged sword,
    Both warms the Earth and fuels the storm.

    More rain, more drought, more hurricanes too,
    The climate’s wrath, a sight to rue.
    Flooding and heat, a deadly mix,
    The cost of our inaction, our bitter fix.

    O Earth, our home, we must beware,
    Of this warming trend, so wild and rare.
    Reduce our emissions, fast and strong,
    Before the damage is too long.


    • Reconcile this:

      How has climate change changed since 2015?
      An accompanying WMO report on greenhouse gas concentrations shows that 2015-2019 has seen a continued increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to new records, with CO2 growth rates nearly 20% higher than the previous five years.Sep 22, 2019

      On the other hand:

      Has there been no global warming since 2015?
      “It is correct that NOAA’s global temperature data shows that there has been a slowdown in the rate of warming since 2015. While the years 2015 and 2016 were record warm years, global surface temperatures have not increased at the same rate in the years that followed.” Feb 24, 2023

      So it appears that a 20% increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gasses has slowed the warming of the planet.

  12. Although I disagree with the sentiment I appreciate and respect the work that went into your poem, Raf. 🙂

    But as for me and my house, we will burn Avgas, 92 Premium car gas, and diesel.

  13. Same as the dummies that fell for CFCs vs ozone holes at the poles.

    Dupont’s patent on Freon was up.

    Follow the $£¥₩

    • Urgent request to the non science-minded individuals

      Open your minds, oh ignorant ones,
      And see the world for what it is, not what you want.
      The evidence is clear, the science is sound,
      Don’t be a trumped puppet, don’t be a clown.

      Be a critical thinker, be a scholar,
      Be someone who makes a difference, no matter how small.
      Step out of your ignorance, step into the light,
      The world needs your intelligence, it’s day and night.

      So let’s all work together, to make the world a better place,
      And leave ignorance behind, in this fast-paced race.