Few things shatter a fragile sense of security as quickly as when an airplane suddenly hits a rough patch of turbulence—and thanks to climate change, it's about to get a whole lot worse.
According to a new study published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Reading's department of meteorology, plane turbulence is predicted to get a lot rougher in the coming years due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As the study explains, these increased CO2 levels—largely thanks to human activities—will make it increasingly difficult for planes to navigate "vertical wind shears," thus causing resistance and destabilizing the aircraft. Utilizing a computer simulation, the authors of the study measured the effects of doubling the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on a plane traveling at 39,000 feet—and the results aren't pretty.
One of the researches on the study, Paul Williams, writes that light turbulence could increase by 59 percent; moderate, "drink-spilling" turbulence could increase by 75 percent; and severe turbulence—the kind that has caused injury for passengers and crew in the past—could increase by 149 percent.
"Our new study paints the most detailed picture yet of how aircraft turbulence will respond to climate change," Williams wrote, according to Elite Daily. "For most passengers, light turbulence is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience that reduces their comfort levels, but for nervous fliers even light turbulence can be distressing. However, even the most seasoned frequent fliers may be alarmed at the prospect of a 149 percent increase in severe turbulence, which frequently hospitalizes air travelers and flight attendants around the world."
As Mental Floss points out, while there have been few cases of serious injury caused by turbulence in recent years, it's easy to imagine the number of incidents dramatically increasing if turbulence gets as bad as Williams suggests. As a result, it's more important than ever to remember to wear your seatbelt at all times, even when the "fasten seatbelt" sign is off.
You can download the entire study for yourself right here.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.