Climate change and flight times

The latest piece of hyped-up climate-related silliness to appear in the media is Winds of climate change will make transatlantic flights longer, study shows. The Guardian claims that ‘thousands of hours’ will be added to flight times. In fact if you read the article, the claim is that if all the climate science predictions are correct (and we know that’s a very big if) then a transatlantic round trip would take 1 minute longer. That’s one minute out of 12 hours, or an increase of about 0.1%. The Guardian and the Telegraph seem to think this is important news, and the author of the study, Paul Williams, is quoted as saying, in regard to his claim of one minute on 12 hours, “when you look at those numbers, it is just enormous”.

The claim is that the jet stream will get stronger, slowing down westbound flights and speeding up eastbound ones. Amusingly, the Guardian article shows its usual levels of science comprehension by getting this the wrong way round.

“This is good hard science that we understand very well” claims Williams in the Guardian.

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The paper this comes from is Transatlantic flight times and climate change, published in Environmental Research Letters, one of several new-ish journals dedicated to the promotion of climate activism and scaremongering (it published the notorious Cook et al 97% consensus paper, and recently The challenges of studying capitalism and its discontents).

In the paper itself, a trivial piece of arithmetic (the well known idea that if you travel to London at 30mph and return at 50mph, then your average speed is not 40mph, but less, in fact 37.5 if you work it out) is described in terms of a ‘conceptual model’, in which the trivial arithmetic is done approximately using three equations.

The paper does not support Williams’s claim that it is good hard science that they understand well. It describes climate model projections of a stronger jetstream, and cites two papers, one of which says “While there is some agreement between models on a poleward shift and a strengthening of the jet stream in response to anthropogenic forcing, there is still considerable spread between different model projections”, while the other reports that “We conclude that uncertainties in the projected changes of the zonal flow over Europe are at least partly due to uncertainties in the response of the North Atlantic Ocean to increased levels of greenhouse gases.”  This isn’t good hard science, even if you believe that the climate models have any useful predictive power.

Here’s some basic meteorology: the jet stream, like most of our weather, is driven by temperature differences, in particular the temperature difference between the poles and equator.   Global warming theory predicts that the poles will warm faster than the equator, which would reduce the temperature difference and so reduce wind speeds. This point has been made by Roger Pielke.

See also Bishop Hill, Paul Homewood and the BBC, which acknowledges that “there is no firm observational evidence of changes in the jet stream”.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again: It’s this overconfident bullshit-science combined with deliberate media over-hyping by the climate scientists themselves that is one of the main factors driving climate scepticism.

 

15 thoughts on “Climate change and flight times

  1. A good and timely analysis. I almost take it for granted that a press release would have been prepared and issued for this ERL paper , complete with suitable phrasings for soundbites and headlines. The paper itself seems to be of little or no merit, but if it was primarily intended to keep the CO2-Threatens-Us notion up in the air, so to speak, then it has served its purpose by generating some headlines.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve said this before and I will say it again:

    I’ve no idea why you think it bears repeating. Makes you seem like a nasty, intolerant piece of work who simply likes to smear anyone who presents anything with which you happen disagree.

    So, now that Ed Hawkins has pointed out that the temperature gradient, at the altitude relevant to the results in this paper, is actually expected to increase with warming, are you willing to reconsider your assessment? You can treat this as a rhetorical question.

    Also, as far as your argument for why it is this type of thing that drives “skepticism”, that would seem to suggest that it’s driven by a significant lack of understanding of what’s being presented. I can understand this in some circumstances, but coming from an academic, I find it rather pathetic. Skepticism is an actual process of investigation, not some kind of assessment based on superficial factors like “I think this sounds like bullshit” or “I don’t trust those people”. I would have hoped someone in your position might encourage more genuine skepticism, rather than more pseudo-“skepticism”.

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  3. ERL was infamous even before this nonsense got published. How it got played up by the MSM is but another example of those biased echo chambers.
    Good post encapsulation of the whole affair. Warmunism on full display.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ristvan, “How it got played up by the MSM…”
    But check the paper, the press release, and the MSM reports.
    Who is doing the playing up? The answer is, it is the scientist himself, or the university, not the MSM.
    That’s what I find most disturbing.

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  5. For having been a frequent transatlantic flyer and having regularly returned home, I know that these flights go in both directions. So if you loose one minute one way, you gain one minute the other way. And that is physics.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Next there’s the claim that at altitude, the temperature trend is predicted to be the other way round, i.e. more warming at the equator. This is the notorious “missing hotspot” problem, discussed for example here at Climate Dialogue.

    This isn’t happening, as pointed out by Paul Homewood. The RSS satellite data shows a mid-troposphere (TMT) trend of 0.219K/decade at the pole and 0.125K/decade at mid-latitudes. For the next layer up, the troposhere-stratosphere (TTS) centred at about 10km the numbers are 0.098K/decade and 0.055K/decade. So at both levels, there is slightly more warming at the pole.

    Furthermore, as someone pointed out at BH, according to wikipedia, climate change is expected to weaken the jetstream, not strengthen it. There are several references there.
    You can find this statement elsewhere, for example at Climate Central: “The work of Dr. Jennifer Francis and Steven Vavrus shows that as the Arctic warms faster than the tropics, a lessening of the temperature gradient between the equator and the North Pole slows the jet stream.”

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  7. ..AND THEN THERE’S PHYSICS says:
    10 Feb 16 at 4:41 pm
    “I’ve said this before and I will say it again:

    I’ve no idea why you think it bears repeating. Makes you seem like a nasty, intolerant piece of work who simply likes to smear anyone who presents anything with which you happen disagree.”

    Projecting again Rice, you sad little “scientist”?

    Grow up.

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  8. Good post Paul. Regardless of the questionable science, 1 minute increase for an 8 hour flight is truly insignificant economically. Some airplanes actually turned out to have an optimal cruise speed a little greater than what was promised. It’s not an exact science anyway. There is perhaps a 8% difference in optimal airspeed between popular jets.

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  9. ‘Skepticism is an actual process of investigation, not some kind of assessment based on superficial factors like “I think this sounds like bullshit” or “I don’t trust those people”’.

    You’re correct of course, Dr Rice and, sad to relate, it’s the public profile of academics revealed through blogs and social media that has given rise to widespread and growing sceptical criticism of so much that passes for serious scientific discourse in our 21st Century.

    Leaving aside the triviality, stated certainty and virtue signalling of ‘studies’ as documented in the above article which shapes much of public opinion, we have the issue of state funded academics dripping their vitriol by opposing, on what seems a suspiciously, full-time basis, any opposing viewpoint.

    You, dear Kenneth, by word and by deed, are in this unfortunate category and your deficiencies in self-awareness are painfully apparent.

    If scepticism, and as a Scotsman that’s how I spell it, has been transformed into that you’ve described then attitudes, such as you display all too frequently, have been a major catalyst in that transformation.

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  11. You’re correct of course, Dr Rice and, sad to relate, it’s the ublic profile of academics revealed through blogs and social media that has given rise to widespread and growing sceptical criticism of so much that passes for serious scientific discourse in our 21st Century.

    Indeed, calling someone’s work overconfident bullshit-science isn’t how one would normally conduct serious scientific discourse. Of course, one’s skepticism should still be based on something a bit more robust than the behaviour of some on blogs and social media.

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  12. I have to admit that a new public version of Ken Rice seems to being alpha tested on this thread. An improvement one must say. On the “tone” issue and how science is done issue. If you go back and read some of Andy Lacis’ comments at Climate etc you see a tone of strong frankness. The politically correct might call it arrogant and condescending. Those with strong scientific attitudes who are confident in their own work will look past such things to the real content. Pauls characterization of this paper seems to me frank but justified by its irrelevance and weak scientific foundations

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  13. It’s encouraging to see so much scepticism in the comment sections of newspapers where this junk science has been promoted. The British public are not as gullible as climate scientists would like them to be.

    At the Scotsman, almost all the comments are sceptical, and one even links back to this post.
    “These guys are new on the block, but my goodness they are on the ball about the climate scamsters and charlatans”
    There’s also a good comment mentioning all the reports about decreasing strength of the jetstream.

    Even at the Grauniad people are pointing out that 1 minute on a round trip flight is nothing, and again noting the previous stories about the jetstream weakening.

    Similarly, where it’s reported in New Zealand, comments are scathing.

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