Science: Why It’s Too Hot For Some Planes To Fly In The Southwest

By Marshall Shepherd, FORBES CONTRIBUTOR | JUNE 20, 2017
“I write about weather and climate related topics (and study them too)”

American Airlines canceled dozens of flights out of Phoenix on June 19 due to extreme heat. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The National Weather Service in Phoenix, Arizona confirmed on Tuesday morning that a record high temperature was set Monday June 19th. The temperature was 118 degrees F. This tied the record set only a year ago in 2016. The National Weather Service also tweeted this ominous statement

……If we hit our forecast highs Tuesday and Wednesday it would set 2 new records. #azheat

Across the southwest United States, heat experienced “less than once per year on average” is happening, and it is dangerous. Ironically, a new paper released Monday in the peer-review journal Nature Climate Change found that extreme heat like that being observed in the Southwest U.S. and in Portugal will become more common and intense. The study also finds that the number of people globally affected by 20 days or more of intense heatwaves (dangerous temperature and humidity) will jump from 1 in 4 currently to 3 out of 4 by 2100.

This is consistent with a 2016 National Academy of Science report that concluded that contemporary heatwaves are increasingly linked to climate change. Such heat is obviously a human health concern, but there is another disruption that you may not think about. Extreme heat affects air travel. Believe it or not, it is unsafe to operate many of the airplanes currently in use by major airlines when temperatures are this hot, and science explains why.

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