Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says climate change is behind increased flight turbulence

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks during a press conference a day after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2024.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says climate change is one of the culprits for increased flight turbulence.

“The reality is that the effects of climate change are already upon us in terms of our transportation,” Buttigieg said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, predicting that turbulence is something that will continue to “affect American travelers, whether here or abroad”.

“We’ve seen that in the form of everything from heat waves that statistically shouldn’t even be possible that threaten to melt the cables of transit systems in the Pacific Northwest, to, as you mentioned, hurricane seasons becoming increasingly extreme and indications that turbulence has increased by about 15%,” he continued. “That means evaluating anything and everything we can do about it.”

A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters last year found that there was an increase in clear air turbulence (CAT) between 1979 and 2020, with “severe or greater” turbulence becoming the strongest CAT category 55% more frequent over the North Atlantic during that time period.

“Our climate is evolving,” Buttigieg said. “Our policies, our technology and our infrastructure must also evolve accordingly.”

His comments come as turbulence has wreaked havoc on a number of flights so far this year.

On Sunday, 12 people were injured after a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin was hit by turbulence while flying over Turkey. Six passengers and six crew members were injured, eight of whom were taken to hospital after assessment, Dublin Airport said in a statement. POST in X.

The plane landed shortly before 1pm local time and was met by emergency services including airport police and the fire and rescue department after landing, the airport said in a statement. separate post in X.

Strong turbulence also hit a Singapore Airlines flight last week, killing one person and injuring 30 others.

While Buttigieg called the deadly turbulence on the Singapore Airlines flight “very rare,” he added that “turbulence can happen and sometimes it can happen suddenly.”

“Now, there are protocols and models for things like how pilots who encounter turbulence can notify those who may be on the way,” he said. “But I think we have to constantly reassess that in the face of the reality that these things are more frequent and more severe than before.”

‘Error on reporting side’

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