Impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation on Transatlantic Flight Routes and Clear-Air Turbulence
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Impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation on Transatlantic Flight Routes and Clear-Air Turbulence
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    Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 55(3), 763-771.
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  • Description:
    The variation of wind-optimal transatlantic flight routes and their turbulence potential is investigated to understand how upper-level winds and large-scale flow patterns can affect the efficiency and safety of long-haul flights. In this study, the wind-optimal routes (WORs) that minimize the total flight time by considering wind variations are modeled for flights between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York, New York, and Heathrow Airport (LHR) in London, United Kingdom, during two distinct winter periods of abnormally high and low phases of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) teleconnection patterns. Eastbound WORs approximate the JFK LHR great circle (GC) route following northerly shifted jets in the +NAO period. Those WORs deviate southward following southerly shifted jets during the NAO period, because eastbound WORs fly closely to the prevailing westerly jets to maximize tailwinds. Westbound WORs, however, spread meridionally to avoid the jets near the GC in the +NAO period to minimize headwinds. In the NAO period, westbound WORs are north of the GC because of the southerly shifted jets. Consequently, eastbound WORs are faster but have higher probabilities of encountering clear-air turbulence than westbound ones, because eastbound WORs are close to the jet streams, especially near the cyclonic shear side of the jets in the northern (southern) part of the GC in the +NAO ( NAO) period. This study suggests how predicted teleconnection weather patterns can be used for long-haul strategic flight planning, ultimately contributing to minimizing aviation's impact on the environment.
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