Rising temperatures due to global warming will make it harder for many aircraft around the world to take off in coming decades, says a new study by Columbia University. As air warms, it spreads out, and its density declines. In thinner air, wings generate less lift as a plane takes off. Depending on aircraft model, runway length, and other factors, at some point, a packed plane may be unable to take off safely if the temperature gets too high.
The study focuses on the unexplored risks of changing climate on aviation. If globe-warming emissions continue unabated, fuel capacities and payload weights will have to be reduced by as much as 4 percent on the hottest days for some aircraft. For an average aircraft operating today, a 4 percent weight reduction would mean roughly 12 or 13 fewer passengers on an average 160-seat craft.