Flying has gotten 55% more turbulent. Michigan Congresswoman wants better data on why

Plane flights are getting more turbulent and a Michigan Congresswoman wants the federal government to do a better job tracking it.

Haley Stevens, (D-Birmingham) introduced the Severe Turbulence Research and Development Act of 2023 this week in hopes of enhancing the government's ability to understand and monitor severe turbulence.

The bill would require help the Federal Aviation Administration's monitoring capabilities of turbulence while requiring it to develop better ways of tracking the hazards.

The legislation comes following a report published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal found rates of clear-air turbulence have gotten worse over the past 40 years. Since 1979 to 2020, flights have gotten 55% bumpier, the study found.

The study cites climate change as the main driver behind the increased turbulence.

The hazard can be dangerous for crews and passengers and is linked to 19 hospitalizations a year, Stevens said. 

"These incidents are deeply concerning, and consumers deserve to have safe flying experiences," Stevens said in a statement. "Scientific evidence shows that climate change has already begun to increase turbulence. As climate change's effects become more severe, further research is desperately needed to improve turbulence data collection and forecasting to protect passengers and flight crews."

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Part of the reason clear-air turbulence is a concern to scientists is that sensing tools on planes can't pick up the hazard, which can surprise pilots before they're able to warn passengers.

It's also expected to get worse as climate change trends continue to advance and grow more severe. 

"Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) is becoming more common and more extreme every year as the climate changes," said Sara Nelson, the presidnet of a flight attendants association. "We applaud Rep. Stevens for introducing the Severe Turbulence Research and Development Act of 2023 to study and monitor this serious hazard and create measures to keep us all safer in the air. 

"As aviation's first responders - charged with the safety, health, and security of the passengers in our care - we know this threat needs mitigation, and thank goodness we have a partner in Rep. Stevens to take real action for our safety in the aircraft cabin."