Claim:  Turbulence is Getting Worse due to Climate Change

Robert L. Vislocky, Ph.D.

From the camp of “let’s scare airline travelers without checking the data first” are a number of news reports that hit the press about a month ago claiming that climate change is making aircraft turbulence worse. Below is one such article from NPR, but many more can be found at the usual climate crisis web sites (CNN, Washington Post, Newsweek, etc..):

Of course the news articles are laced with anecdotal observations and the usual reference to a climate model study featuring predictions 60 years into the future. What is odd, however, is that none of the news reports contained any actual turbulence data to see if this is actually becoming a problem in a warming world.

The graph below is from a 2021 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) safety research report on preventing turbulence-related injuries in air carrier operations. It indicates the total number of accidents (light blue) and the number of accidents due to turbulence (dark blue) per 100,000 flight hours over the past 30 years. Accidents are defined as an incident where at least one passenger suffers a serious injury or the aircraft receives substantial damage. The NTSB concluded “there was no obvious trend in turbulence-related accidents during this period.” Once again, the real data is counter to the scare reports from the climate change community.


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May 7, 2023 2:12 am

story tip
Seems Marc Morano endorses Candidate RFK,Jr who has done a full 180 degree on Climate!

And : The Future History of Nuclear Fusion
Letter from 2073:
Fifty years ago, fusion energy was a ludicrous pipe dream. Now it powers everything. Dr. Tritium takes you back to the pioneers of nuclear prosperity.
Mark Bergen and Eric Roston

old cocky
Reply to  bonbon
May 7, 2023 4:41 am

Letter from 2073:

Fifty years ago, fusion energy was a ludicrous pipe dream. Now it powers everything. Dr. Tritium takes you back to the pioneers of nuclear prosperity.

I thought that was going to say “now, it’s only 30 years away from commercial use”

Rich Davis
Reply to  old cocky
May 7, 2023 8:44 am

Yeah, that will be the actual story for certain.

Reply to  bonbon
May 7, 2023 6:51 am

Encouraging words from RFK, Jr. and it might be good to have a candidate that hates the CIA. Now what will they do?

Reply to  Scissor
May 7, 2023 8:19 pm

Its a Kennedy. With a chance.

What did THEY do to John and Bobby?

Reply to  bonbon
May 7, 2023 9:15 am

Funny how inventions are timed. The Nobel Prize for chirped laser amplification is Just In Time for Petawatt ignition. That Bloomberg article is not a cartoon. Before these lasers a lot of ideas were mothballed.
And funny how chirped Radar was classified for so long.
And funny how the ancient laser-driven NIF achieved a net fusion gain last Dec. on a classified DoD mandate, and published openly.
That is why Oracles are always wrong.

Peta of Newark
May 7, 2023 2:13 am

Turbulence explains why those Boeing aircraft nosedived into the ground and nobody on board could stop them.

Think about it: It was ‘computer generated turbulence‘ that was the cause of those hypersonic nose-first ‘landings’ and because computers are now The Ultimate Authority On Everything….

….it’s the same everywhere = Life On Earth is now on a computer generated nosedive.

michael hart
Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 7, 2023 4:43 am

I frequent the excellent YouTube channel Mentour Pilot where he analyses the official accident reports.
What strikes me the most in the modern era is just how many incidents are caused by the, often very experienced, pilots not being fully aware of what the fly-by-wire system is doing or not doing.

Paul B
Reply to  michael hart
May 7, 2023 6:48 am

Agreed, excellent site. Along the same lines as your own observation, he often exposes how easy it is for a pilot to be overwhelmed by system complexity such that they forget to simply fly the plane.

I worked for a time at Combustion Engineering (reactor supplier) and thought more than once that the safety systems designed into our reactors were complex enough to teeter on the edge of being safety hazards. I worked on the ‘voting’ systems that manipulated multitudes of raw data, deciding which fabricated reading to present to operators.

A bit like climate modeling, only with live ammo underneath it all.

Reply to  Paul B
May 7, 2023 8:53 am

The other problem is pilots becoming so dependent on the computers that they have forgotten how to fly the plane.
A number of years back, an Air France plane over the Atlantic because the plane stalled, and the co-pilot in a panic pulled back on the controls causing the plane to go nose up and slow down even further.
How to recover from a stall is one of the first things new pilots are taught. It involves pushing the nose DOWN, so that the plane can pick up speed.

Rich Davis
Reply to  MarkW
May 7, 2023 9:20 am

It’s a bit of a conundrum. Do we want a system that is safer on average but sometimes fails in ways that an expert pilot could have avoided, or do we want a system that requires expert pilots but that fails because expert pilots are in short supply and even expert pilots can have a bad day?

I’d say that ideally we want a system that can fly autonomously and be controlled remotely like a drone but still have a trained pilot on board to address the rare system failure.

Reply to  michael hart
May 7, 2023 6:57 am

Obviously, more cool headed trans pilots are needed.

Rich Davis
Reply to  michael hart
May 7, 2023 9:00 am

Even still, how I read that chart is that we’re very near the safest performance of the past quarter century. Turbulence is a root cause of a higher percentage of accidents now (about 1/3 vs 1/5) but turbulence-related accidents are only negligibly more frequent in terms of accidents per flight hour.

Conclusion: something is working well to reduce controllable errors other than turbulence, but not as much progress has been made in predicting and avoiding severe turbulence events.

Possible explanation: fly-by-wire is reducing human error substantially more than it is introducing new failure modes.

Reply to  michael hart
May 7, 2023 11:58 am

During my time flying in S-3 aircraft we had an aircraft alert of possible uncommanded rolls during landings. I was only involved in one computer generated roll attempt but the pilot immediately countered it.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
May 7, 2023 5:21 pm

Peta of Newark,
Your first explanation is not correct. Pilots with limited flight time and no knowledge of stabilizer operation and other basic flying skills were the cause, not the B737. With 54 years of flying including a long airline career I would not have flown on those airlines anyway. As regards turbulence the article is wide of the mark because there is a difference between clear air turbulence and that associated with thunderstorms or other severe weather.
There are far too many passengers that don’t keep the seat belt fastened unless using the toilets. The amount of turbulence in the air would not have changed over the years to any marked degree. Many cases of flying into turbulence can be traced to pilots in certain parts of the world not knowing how to use the weather radar properly.
Some years ago after the loss of an Indonesian aircraft in thunderstorm conditions, a wide survey of pilot usage of weather radar by experts, found that around 60% of pilots in the Asian area did not know how to really operate it properly. This caused many flights to enter the tops of thunderstorms inadvertently, especially at night.

May 7, 2023 2:50 am

“none of the news reports contained any actual turbulence data”

Data is not required. What is important is how you feel about it, what emotional response is generated by “the message”.

Lived experience is their metric

Dave Fair
Reply to  strativarius
May 7, 2023 11:59 am

AOC: “We believe truth over facts.”

Reply to  strativarius
May 7, 2023 2:46 pm


“Data? We don’t need no shtinkin data….”

May 7, 2023 3:01 am

I’m sure that after seeing this Watts-Up post, NPR will publish a correction/retraction.

Ron Long
May 7, 2023 3:05 am

I read the referenced report(s) and find very little factual data. Anecdotal reports have limited value, and the other reports re filled with “could” and “projected”. It looks like the rate of turbulence injuries is between 0.05 and 0.1 per 100,000 hours flown, so to get your risk of turbulence injury up to 50/50 you need to fly between 50,000,000 and 100,000,000 hours: congratulations, you would be the king of frequent flyer miles! Keep your seatbelt buckled when seated!

May 7, 2023 4:26 am

story tip
Must see :
Biden official: It’s going to cost trillions of dollars. There’s no doubt about it. Me: So, if the U.S. spent $50T to become carbon neutral by 2050, how much is that going to reduce world temperatures? Biden official: *No answer*

Just imagine asking Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk whether turbulence would be reduced with $50 TRILLION!

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  bonbon
May 7, 2023 6:03 am

heck, Turk should be able to answer that to 5 decimal places because “the science is settled”

E. Schaffer
May 7, 2023 4:29 am

Certainly a strong point for net zero. If the commons reduce their emissions to zero, the frequent flyers in their private jets might enjoy smoother rides..

It doesnot add up
May 7, 2023 4:59 am

Perhaps aircraft are getting better at avoiding CAT. It has long been the case that a pilot who runs into CAT will report it for the benefit of others on the same route. I recall a lengthy diversion flying transatlantic into Bermuda in the 1960s because the pilot had received just such a warning. Perhaps modern weather satellites allow better forecast of CAT risk, even if onboard radar still has difficulty identifying it.

D Boss
Reply to  It doesnot add up
May 7, 2023 6:50 am

Turbulence reporting by pilots is still regular (PIREP – PIlot REPort), as are actual turbulence forecasts derived from satellite, balloon and PIREP data:

John Hultquist
Reply to  D Boss
May 7, 2023 9:19 am

Cliff wrote: “You would not have wanted to land at Seattle-Tacoma Airport between 2 and 4 AM on Tuesday morning.
and . . .
The most amazing thing about this whole event was the ability of UW high-resolution model to PREDICT it.”

D Boss
Reply to  John Hultquist
May 8, 2023 5:15 am

Actually both airports and most airliners have wind shear alert systems, which would have sounded/triggered with enough time to avoid a catastrophe if a plane were on short final at the time of the huge pressure spike and wind shift. But it is an interesting anomaly.

Big airports like SeaTac have wind speed/direction sensors out at the ends and middle of all the runways, which here are ~2 miles long, so as this pressure spike approached it would have set off the wind shear alert with enough warning time to cause ATC to issue a go around call to anyone on short final or final approach.

In a 1 in a million case of bad luck if say an airliner were at 50 feet and crossing the threshold and the sudden reversal of wind from headwind to tailwind with a delta of 30 knots this could slam the plane down and collapse the landing gear. However airliners have two wind shear warning systems, so it is unlikely this could occur.

First is a Predictive WindShear alert, where the doppler weather radar mounted in the plane’s nose detects wind shear out 3 nautical miles ahead of the plane and displays this and provides an audible warning. And the other is a Reactive Windshear alert, where the system is monitoring the airspeed, ground speed and heading and from these deduces the wind speed. And it also watches the altitude If there is a sudden change in the difference between ground speed and airspeed, or a sudden change in altitude, or combinations of these parameters, an immediate windshear announciation is sounded as seen in the following training session: (Boeing 747 WINDSHEAR RECOVERY)

Ed Zuiderwijk
May 7, 2023 5:00 am

Heads will explode, surely.

Last edited 30 days ago by Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
May 8, 2023 10:59 am

Only with a sudden decompression !!

Chris Hall
May 7, 2023 5:07 am

After watching many episodes of “Air Disasters”, it is my impression that most cases of damage or injury due to clear air turbulence are caused by planes running into wingtip vortices of large aircraft ahead of them. It’s hard to pretzel that into a climate issue, but I’m sure someone will try.

Bill Pekny
Reply to  Chris Hall
May 7, 2023 8:15 am

True about wingtip vortices and pretzeling it into a climate issue, Chris. When I was learning to fly (Cessna 150) in the 1960s at Midway airport in Chicago, one of the first rules learned was to touch down further down the runway than the big jet in front of you to avoid wingtip vortices.

May 7, 2023 6:06 am

And even if there was an increase in reported turbulence, there’s still another step-proving a slight rise in the temperature as the causation. “Science” is easy when one uses correlations as proof of causation…..

May 7, 2023 6:17 am

I fly a lot and have for years. My anecdotal opinion is that turbulence is reduced across those years. Forty-five to 50 years ago, every flight was noticeably turbulent, now, a few bumps on the climb out is usually the worst. Maybe the planes are better, maybe the pilots are better, maybe air traffic control, technology and weather forecasting are better, or maybe there is just less turbulence. I don’t know. But it is more comfortable–or would be if the seats were bigger–but that is another matter.

Reply to  starzmom
May 7, 2023 7:11 am

I recall hearing Senator Stabenow from Michigan claiming that she could feel the increased turbulence due to global warming. My thought at the time was that her ass must be sharper than her brain.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  starzmom
May 7, 2023 8:35 am

It’s probably partly a question of altitudes. A turboprop might only fly at 15-25,000 ft. Sometimes even lower: I recall a Viscount between Belfast and Glasgow Abbotsinch where we were at 5-10,000 ft, and low enough over the Mull of Kintyre that I thought of waving at Paul McCartney. At those levels you can still be in and out of cloud, and it’s more turbulent. Concorde at 50-60,000ft was up in the stratosphere above the turbulence. Likewise transpolar or high Arctic flights to Japan etc. Flights in the tropics are more turbulence prone e.g. the Air France flight from Brazil that was lost mid ocean.

I do note that modern aircraft, business jets aside, tend not to fly quite as high as their predecessors. I’ve crossed the Atlantic at 42,000ft in a VC10, but modern flights seem to be 32-38,000ft only, and slower for fuel economy.

Reply to  It doesnot add up
May 7, 2023 9:02 am

I thought that flying higher meant better fuel economy. First, lower air density means lower drag and secondly the air is colder which means the engines can be more efficient.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  MarkW
May 7, 2023 11:10 am

There are limitations. A lot of factors explained here:

This chart is a useful background

comment image

I think the VC10 was exceptional in that it was designed for speed at the expense of economy.

Reply to  starzmom
May 7, 2023 9:05 am

The actual route is critical – seems to be a wave-like turbulence crossing Iceland to Europe. Maybe a jet-stream effect. That moves around.
Not calming to see M.Douglas fuselages bending right ahead up the aisle.
They are made for that, fasten seat-belts!

D Boss
May 7, 2023 6:31 am

I believe this nonsense media blitz on turbulence increasing due to climate change was prompted by the death of Dana Hyde, a former Obama official on a private jet back in March 2023. Initial reports said she sustained injury from turbulence, however that was not the case in the NTSB preliminary report detailed here; (NTSB Preliminary N300ER Challenger 300 Dana Hyde) Juan is a working B777 pilot, who provides succinct and sobering aviation accident analyses and commentary.
As Juan describes it “this accident occurred as a result of a series of unfortunate actions by the pilots” “It had nothing to do with turbulence”.

Long story short, they screwed up and aborted a takeoff because they had left a cover on one of the pitot tubes (which measure airspeed). they shut down the left engine to open the door and remove said cover, and then restarted the engine. However this leaves a “fault” condition set in the avionics/automation software. Subsequent cautions came up about pitch trim and rudder trim issues which they improperly addressed.

With the autopilot on, caution messages occurred stating significant nose down was being commanded by the autopilot. They elected to clear this fault improperly and this disengaged the autopilot – and the pitch trim caused a rapid nose up condition and their manual recovery of this out of trim condition caused a series of pitch up and down motions resulting in +4.2g and -2.6g undulations on everything in the aircraft.

Didn’t matter if Dana Hyde had her seatbelt on, this kind of sudden g force experience could snap your neck whilst sitting. (think basal skull fracture like Dale Earnhart Sr.?)

And yes, the actual accident vs turbulence data presented in this thread from the NTSB demonstrates the latest “chicken little” cries of the sky is falling due to climate change – is debunked. As is the motivation for the media thrust by the loss of one of their own propagandists by pilot error not turbulence.

Finally from a purely basic physics perspective, “turbulence” is a sharp delta in wind speed. Winds are caused by a delta in air pressure over large areas, which are caused by a large delta in temperature. Since the climate cult narrative is the arctic is supposed to be warming more than the lower latitudes, this means lower delta T and hence delta pressures, hence less tendency for turbulence with so called global warming!

This is borne out by less or steady storminess values seen in tornado and hurricane data. Storminess has either declined or stayed relatively steady – so no, turbulence is not going to increase with warming.

Paul B
Reply to  D Boss
May 7, 2023 6:56 am

Then there are all those wind mills taking KE out of the atmosphere, converting it heat. Who knows what the long term affect of that is? Nothing is free!

D Boss
Reply to  Paul B
May 8, 2023 5:28 am

Exactly! I have been harping on this for some time – taking massive amounts of energy out of the wind will affect weather and climate – causing untold unintended consequences! The idiotic notion of a climate crisis could become a self fulfilling prophecy from both wind and solar energy collection schemes done on a large enough scale. (wind turbines take energy from the wind field, slowing it down, and solar panels only extract 15% of the solar energy, the rest is absorbed as heat in t he panels – which then artificially cause more local surface heating effects) (this on top of both schemes taking more energy to manufacture than they will produce in their lifetimes, plus the waste disposal issues for both wind and solar collection nonsense, and plant and animal kills, etc.)(there’s no grasses or trees growing under multi acre solar farms and bird and bat kills by wind turbines)

You said it precisely: “nothing is free”!

Reply to  D Boss
May 7, 2023 7:13 am

My God, haven’t heard that in the MSM.

May 7, 2023 7:12 am

Turbulence increasing? More covidiocy. My three last flights caused me to fear flying.

  1. Plane is refueled while I am disembarking. I am ostracised for complaining. Two weeks later, many people are killed in a similar situation.
  2. I overhear the crew of a British Airways flight dismiss the lagging schedule by “flying a bit faster”. Only after being called a terrorist, did I get them to slow down to a speed where the bearing in the engine outside my window stopped screaming. Shortly thereafter their plane (same one?) missed take-off, crashed at the end of the runway, Many dead/ injured.
  3. Night flight on South African Airways. The botched landing near-miss is blamed on cross-winds, but I remember them bragging how our co-pilot is on track to become the first Black female commercial pilot. Could she not practice on freight planes? That night, with no wind and a good moon, would have been ideal to go practice somewhere harmless…

Maybe the cheap bastards should start spending on preventative maintenance and engineers, instead of queer parties and equitability, then there will be lot less “turbulence” to hurt their paying passengers.

Reply to  cilo
May 7, 2023 8:34 am

You might want to try your luck in Monaco. I’d take a train.

D Boss
Reply to  cilo
May 8, 2023 7:05 am

Sounds like you are making stuff up.

1) Point to an accident involving refueling where “many people are killed in a similar fashion”?

Here is a safety review by Airbus reporting refueling incidents published in 2009:

It reports 11 refueling spill incidents in a year. One report in 2008 with a fire that damaged an aircraft, with no injuries or fatalities. Over 10 years only 1 fatality reported from a fuel spill incident in 2001.

Number of flights worldwide in 2009 is 26 million, with Airbus being roughly 50% so 11,000,000 flights and 11 fuel spills, means a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of having a fuel spill incident on your flight. And 10x less chance of a fatality.

Again it sounds like you are making stuff up here.

2) That you could hear a bearing screaming on the engine outside your window is preposterous and clearly delusional. Turbofan engines generate sound pressure levels of 140 dB. a bad bearing maybe 85 dB. the scale is logarithmic so the jet exhaust is at least 1,000 to 10,000 times more sound power than is a bad bearing. Not to mention slowing down will not fix a bad bearing – if a jet engine had a bad bearing the engine would fail in seconds as the inner core is rotating at 20,000 to 30,000 rpm.

That some delusional passenger could get the pilots to slow down is also preposterous. At flight level, the engines are operating at 90-97% of their maximum speed. Likewise at flight levels 30-45,000 feet, the plane’s airspeed is already at 95+% of the Vne speed, which is the never exceed speed of the airframe – so you cannot simply “speed up” more than a few knots over normal cruising airspeed!

If I were on the flight crew, I would label you either drunk, stoned, or mentally unbalanced and delusional – or all of the above if you demanded we slow down because you can hear a bearing in an engine screaming!

3) Pilots of all stripes can and do botch landings regularly. It is a perishable skill that must be practiced often to remain proficient. (Cargolux 747-400 KABLAMMO!-SMASH AND GO 15 Apr 2023) (747 Slams Landing and Bounce | Viral Debrief) two landings, one good in severe cross wind, and the other very bad – time 4:35 to 10:45

Reply to  D Boss
May 9, 2023 12:31 am

Listen genius, what I said there is actually actionable. I invite any of these three airlines to sue me for defamation, and we can go look at their records. I don’t have the money to sue them, see, genius? And please send me the regulation allowing you to refuel a plane with passengers on board, genius, passengers on board!
And you listen to me carefully genius: Trainee pilots should not practice night time landings with passengers on board, genius!

Last edited 28 days ago by cilo
Reply to  cilo
May 8, 2023 11:37 am

Dates & places please.

Reply to  1saveenergy
May 9, 2023 12:40 am

If I could recall dates,I would. Places? Between Johannesburg and various other SA cities. The refuellers were called National Airlines, now defunct.

May 7, 2023 8:46 am

The problem with using incidence data is that the airlines have been working hard on better methods to predict and detect turbulence so that planes can better avoid it.

May 7, 2023 12:02 pm

Senator Stabenow of Michigan years ago said she could feel climate change in her butt because of turbulence.

May 7, 2023 1:30 pm

I was recently diagnosed as having a gallstone. This for the first time ever in my 70 years. Obviously, it was caused by climate change. Where should I go for a grant to study this serious problem further?

Last edited 30 days ago by honestyrus
May 7, 2023 4:00 pm

The mainstream media is disgusting especially the public mainstream media.

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