~~ Dept of Meteorology - University of Reading

Aviation meteorology and climate

The Impact of Climate Change on Aviation: The EXTRA Project

June 2013 - August 2017. NERC-funded project on upper-tropospheric climate change in mid-latitudes, and its impacts on aviation. National Air Traffic Services (NATS) are project partners.

Project Description:

Climate change may affect aviation in a number of ways. Changes to upper-level winds, especially the jet stream, may impact aircraft routing and flight times particularly for trans-oceanic flights which may be routed to take advantage of the strong tailwinds in the jetstream. Changes to the temperature, humidity and wind shear at flight altitudes may affect how often aircraft form persistent contrails (an important climate impact of aviation), and the climate impact of these contrails. At high latitudes and altitudes we may see a decrease in temperatures at flight level, which could increase the risk of fuel freezing conditions.

EXTRA presentation here

ATM4E presentation here

The Climate Impact of Aviation: The REACT4C Project

Jan 2010 - April 2014. EU FP7 funded collaborative project on climate-optimal aircraft routing of trans-Atlantic flights. Led by DLR (Munich), involving Reading university, the Met Office, CICERO (Oslo), EUROCONTROL, CATE at Manchester Metropolitan University, Airbus and L'Aquila University (Italy)

Project Description:

Aircraft emissions contribute to anthropogenic climate change through emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapour, and oxides of nitrogen (which influence ozone and methane), as well as forming contrails and possibly influencing natural cirrus. These non-CO2 effects depend on the location, altitude and time of the emission, as well as the current weather pattern. It may therefore be possible to mitigate the climate impact of aviation by using climate-optimal aircraft routing, where instead of finding minimum-time or minimum-fuel routes, we find the route where the emissions have the smallest impact on climate. The EU-funded REACT4C project is exploring the feasibility of climate-optimal aircraft routing for trans-Atlantic flights. The benefits of climate-optimal routing is that it uses existing technology, and so would be relatively quick and cheap to implement, however it does not negate the need for cleaner fuels and more fuel-efficient aircraft.

My research for this project has focussed on characterising weather patterns over the north Atlantic. For this region, we identified five commonly occurring weather patterns in winter, and three for summer, that can be characterised by the location and strength of the upper-level jet stream. We used simple proxies to show that the climate impact of aviation emissions is expected to vary by weather type.

We have also analysed ice-supersaturation over the north Atlantic region. Aircraft flying through cold ice-supersaturated regions form persistent contrails, which contribute to the climate impact of aviation. We analysed the distribution of cold ice-supersaturated regions at different altitudes within weather patterns, to show that the frequency of cold ISSRs has a maximum in the region of the storm track, and over Greenland, and a minimum over Hudson Bay. Moreover, flying higher does not always produce fewer contrails - this is dependent on the weather pattern. Recently, we have analysed airstreams containing ice-supersaturation, to show that ice-supersaturation is associated with slowly evolving synoptic flow, and commonly occurs in airstreams ascending around high-pressure ridges.

Presentations and invited talks:

In December 2010 I gave a talk at a Royal Meteorological Society meeting on aviation services. The presentations from the meeting are here.
In September 2011 I gave an invited talk at a one-day conference on 'Reducing the impact of emissions from aviation and shipping', organised jointly by the Transport Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University and the Royal Meteorological Society. Meeting details can be found here.
I've recently presented results at the EMS conference in Reading, September 2013 and the 1st ECATS conference in Berlin, November 2013.

Presentation for Env Tech NTC meeting here and as a pdf here

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