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Impact of climate variabilities on trans-oceanic flight times and emissions during strong NAO and ENSO phases

Cited 8 time in Web of Science Cited 7 time in Scopus

Kim, Jung-Hoon; Kim, Daehyun; Lee, Dan-Bi; Chun, Hye-Yeong; Sharman, Robert D.; Williams, Paul D.; Kim, Young-Joon

Issue Date
Institute of Physics Publishing
Environmental Research Letters, Vol.15 No.10, p. 105017
This study investigates the impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on trans-oceanic round-trip flight times and consequent CO(2)emissions over the north Atlantic and eastern Pacific regions. For three strongest winter periods of both polarity during 1979-2016, daily mean wind data are used to compute the wind-optimal flight trajectories at cruising altitudes. Results show that intensified upper-level jet streams during the +NAO winters provide stronger headwinds for westbound flights between the eastern US and the western Europe. This causes 4.24 similar to 9.35 min increase in an averaged total round-trip journey time during the +NAO compared to -NAO winters. In the eastern Pacific region, the jet stream is extended eastward towards the southwestern US during the +ENSO period, which lengthens the travel time for westbound flights between Hawaii and the west coast of the US. The increase in travel time of westbound flights is greater than the corresponding decrease in travel time for eastbound flights, resulting in a 5.92 similar to 8.73 min increase of the averaged total round-trip time during the +ENSO compared to the -ENSO periods. Extrapolating these results to overall trans-oceanic air traffic suggests that aircraft will take a total of 1908 similar to 4207 (888 similar to 1309) extra hours during the +NAO (+ENSO) than the -NAO (-ENSO) winters over the North Atlantic (Eastern Pacific) regions, requiring 6.9 similar to 15 (3.2 similar to 4.7) million US gallons of extra fuel burned at a cost of 21 similar to 45 (9.6 similar to 14) million US dollars and 66 similar to 144 (31 similar to 45) million kg of extra CO(2)emissions to all trans-oceanic traffic. In +ENSO and +NAO winters, the chances of a given flight having a slower round-trip flight time with more fuel burn and CO(2)emissions are 2-10 times higher than in a -ENSO or -NAO winter. These results have significant implications for the planning of long-term flight routes with climate variability.
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