The report revealed that the average amount of severe turbulence in the atmosphere was likely to increase by 149 per cent

Turbulence strong enough to throw unbuckled passengers around the cabin of a plane could become three times more common due to climate change.

That's according to scientists at the University of Reading, which has conducted a pioneering study into the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and transatlantic clear-air turbulence, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The study examined several different turbulence strengths and looked at how they might change in future.

The report says severe air turbulence will increase by 149 per cent. Photo / Getty
The report says severe air turbulence will increase by 149 per cent. Photo / Getty

The results revealed that the average amount of light turbulence in the atmosphere is likely to increase by 59 per cent, light-to-moderate turbulence by 75 per cent, moderate turbulence by 94 per cent, moderate-to-severe by 127 per cent, and severe by 149 per cent.

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Climate change is generating stronger wind shears within the jet stream and causing the atmosphere to become more unstable, the report claims.

"Our new study paints the most detailed picture yet of how aircraft turbulence will respond to climate change," said Dr Paul Williams, who conducted the research.

"For most passengers, light turbulence is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience that reduces their comfort levels, but for nervous fliers even light turbulence can be distressing.

"However, even the most seasoned frequent fliers may be alarmed at the prospect of a 149 per cent increase in severe turbulence, which frequently hospitalises air travellers and flight attendants around the world."

The study used computer simulations of the atmosphere to calculate how wintertime transatlantic clear-air turbulence would change at an altitude of around 39,000 feet when there is twice as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - which is widely expected to occur later this century.

You'll definitely want to keep that seatbelt tightly fastened. Photo / 123RF
You'll definitely want to keep that seatbelt tightly fastened. Photo / 123RF

Dr Williams will now use the model to investigate flight routes in other parts of the world.

As well as causing more frequent and severe turbulence, climate change is likely disrupt aviation in other ways.

According to the report, rising sea levels and storm surges will threaten coastal airports, while extreme weather events, which are set to become more common as the climate warms, will increase the probability of flight delays and disruptions.

"Climate change may have important consequences for aviation, because the meteorological characteristics of the atmosphere influence airport operations, flight routes, journey times, and the safety and comfort of passengers and crew," concluded the report.

This article was originally published by the Daily Telegraph.