Delays ahead: Heat waves to disrupt air travel

As if air travel wasn't already stressful enough.
Just last month, American Airlines was forced to cancel dozens of flights from Phoenix when temperatures of nearly 120 degrees made it too hot for smaller jets to take off.

Now, a study finds such heat-related flight disruptions will become more common in the next few decades as temperatures rise because of global warming. Blistering heat waves like the one that scorched the Southwest in June will make it harder for aircraft around the world to take off, according to the report published Thursday.

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 for a safe takeoff. That means weight must be dumped, or the flight is delayed or canceled.

By the end of this century, heat waves are forecast to become more commonplace, with high temperatures at airports around the globe predicted to soar anywhere from 7.2 to 14.4 degrees above current levels by 2080, according to the study. These intense heat waves would cause the most problems.

photo: © Rob Schumacher, The Arizona Republic via the USA TODAY Network A jet takes-off from Sky Harbor international Airport and flies over the sun on the summer solstice, June 21, 2017.

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