A scary new study has warned one of the worst things about flying is about to get much worse: turbulence.

Bouts of turbulence that are strong enough to toss passengers around the cabin could become up to three times more common - and it's all thanks to climate change, according to news.com.au.

Scientists at the University of Reading in the UK have carried out a first-ever study into the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and clear-air turbulence.

They looked at different strengths of turbulence and how each will change in the future, based on a study of the North Atlantic flight corridor between Europe and the United States.


According to the results, light turbulence in the atmosphere would be likely to increase by about 59 per cent in the future, moderate turbulence would increase by 94 per cent and moderate-to-severe turbulence by 127 per cent.

The strongest kind - severe turbulence - was to increase by a whopping 149 per cent, according to the report.

The scientists found these increases would be caused by climate change generating stronger wind shears within the jet stream, which is a major cause of turbulence.

And while even the scariest jolts are unlikely to cause a plane to fall out of the sky, turbulence does cause injuries, including serious injuries, as a result of loose objects and unbuckled passengers and crew being thrown around the cabin.

Researcher Dr Paul Williams said the study painted the most detailed picture yet of how aircraft turbulence would respond to climate change.

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

"However, even the most seasoned frequent flyers 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 University of Reading said the study, published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences journal, used supercomputer simulations of the atmosphere to calculate how wintertime clear-air turbulence on flights between Europe and the US would change at an altitude of around 12 kilometres when there is twice as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Those conditions are expected to occur later this century.

Dr Williams said his top priority for the future was to investigate how other flight routes around the world would be impacted.

"We also need to investigate the altitude and seasonal dependence of the changes, and to analyse different climate models and warming scenarios to quantify the uncertainties," he added.

About 25 turbulence-related injuries are reported in Australia each year, however many other cases go unreported, according to the latest data from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). Those not wearing seatbelts are the most likely to be affected.

The bureau added turbulence was much more likely to cause injuries to passengers and crew in the cabin than damage to the aircraft itself, which is built to withstand it.

But recent examples of those injuries would make even the most confident of flyers nervous.

December 2016: Passengers were "tossed like rag dolls" when Qatar Airways flight from Washington to Doha hit extreme turbulence, forcing an emergency landing. Witnesses said a young boy was thrown out of his seat and into the lap of a passenger across the aisle during the scary experience.

November 2016: Seven people were hospitalised after China Eastern flight MU777 ran into turbulence as it landed at Sydney Airport. One patient suffered a laceration to the jaw, and others injuries to the head, back and wrist.

October 2016: Two crew members and a passenger were injured when a QantasLink flight from Melbourne encountered severe turbulence on descent into Canberra.

September 2016: Passengers said they "thought they were going to die" when their United Airlines flight from Houston to London hit turbulence, leading to the hospitalisation of 14 passengers and two crew members.

June 2016: A plane cabin was trashed and 23 people on-board were injured when an Avianca Airlines flight from Lima to Buenos Aires was rocked by turbulence over the Andes mountain range. Photographs of the aftermath posted to social media showed a crew member with a severe gash on her head and others strapped to their seats wearing neck braces, while in another photo, debris could be seen strewn across the cabin.