If you’ve been to the airport recently, you may have noticed that many flights are delayed or canceled due to weather. Researchers found that climate change is affecting whether your flights take off or land on time.
“As we increasingly face severe weather events, airlines’ primary concern remains the safety of consumers,” said Skyler McKinley, a spokesperson for AAA. “If it is not safe to fly due to a storm or the runway is too hot or other climatic disturbances leading to delays and cancellations.”
It’s that time of year again, summer travel. And with that comes many complications.
“Climate change is going to make a complete difference to air travel right now, and it’s coming from multiple parts,” said Paul Chinowksky, an engineering professor at the University of Colorado. “You have the extreme heat, and everybody is experiencing it, and we’re seeing record heat all over the country.”
According to the Department of Transport, in May 2022, an on-time arrival rate of 77.2% was reported.
In the same report, there were nearly 12,000 flights canceled due to bad weather and staff shortages, and 65 tarmac delays of more than three hours were reported.
“Heat and severe weather is one area,” Chinowsky said. “The heat is literally affecting the actual tarmac that the plane is on. A plane can’t stay at the gate too long, or it will start to sink into the tarmac.”
Because of climate change, Chinowsky said airlines are doing everything they can to adapt.
“When it starts getting too hot, it creates problems for airplanes to take off,” Chinowsky said. “It makes it harder for them to stand up. So they have to reduce the weight they have, or in some cases they can’t fly.”
Chinowsky said there will be a change not only in the way airlines plan, but also in the materials and technology they use to continue operating.
“You’ll see more flights around 8, 9, 10 at night once it starts to cool off,” Chinowsky said. “It might not be the most favorite thing for passengers, but it’s something they’re going to have to get used to. There are a few things that need to be actively looked at: one is changing the materials we use on runways and taxiways to making them more resistant to heat, and the second is changing our technology to predict when these types of events will occur.”
For now, McKinley said commuters should do what they can to mitigate any disruptions.
“The only silver bullet to avoid delays and cancellations is to get on the earliest flight possible for two reasons,” McKinley said. “Severe weather is usually not so bad in the morning. Also at that time, because the flights are not moved to delayed, there are teams to take you to your destination.”