The news has been full of stories the last few days based on a UH climate change study that found extreme heat waves have been much more prevalent than we realize, and extreme and deadly heat will affect large parts of the earth by the end of this century.
“The 2003 European heatwave killed approximately 70,000 people—that’s more than 20 times the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks,” according to UH geography professor Camilo Mora, the lead author of the study.
With one of those heat waves sweeping across the western U.S. today, we learn about another impact of extremely hot weather–Some commercial aircraft can’t operate at extreme temperatures.
There are reports today that American Airlines has cancelled dozens of scheduled flights from Phoenix because the predicted temperatures exceed to safe operating range of smaller commercial aircraft.
According to one article, echoed across many others today:
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said the smaller regional jets flown by its partners can’t operate once the temperature hits 118. That maximum is set by Bombardier, the manufacturer.
The problem is basic physics. According to USA Today:
Extreme heat affects a plane’s ability to take off. Hot air is less dense than cold air, and the hotter the temperature, the more speed a plane needs to lift off. A runway might not be long enough to allow a plane to achieve the necessary extra speed.
At high temperatures, even larger aircraft that are safe to fly will have to lighten loads by carrying fewer passengers, loading less fuel, or restricting baggage and cargo, several articles suggest. At the same time, it may take more thrust, and more fuel, to take off in extreme heat.
I haven’t seen any studies of how these climate changes will impact commercial airline travel decades in the future, but it is likely causing worries for planners in tourist economies located in tropical and equatorial areas.
Do you suppose Trump’s appointed climate deniers are paying any attention?