Decreased takeoff performance of aircraft due to climate change


Climate change will likely affect aviation; however, it is not well understood. In particular, the effects of climate change on aircraft’s takeoff performance have seldom been studied. Here, we explore the effects of climate change on the takeoff performance of aircraft, including takeoff distance and climb rate. Takeoff performance normally decreases as temperature and pressure altitude increase. Our study confirms an increasing trend of temperature at 30 major international airports. However, the trend of pressure altitude is shown to be either positive or negative at these airports. Such changes of temperature and pressure altitude lead to longer takeoff distance and lower climb rate in the following century. The average takeoff distance in summer will increase by 0.95–6.5% and 1.6–11% from the historical period (1976–2005) to the mid-century (2021–2050) and from the mid- to late-century (2071–2100). The climb rate in summer will decrease by 0.68–3.4% and 1.3–5.2% from the history to the mid-century and from the mid- to late-century, respectively. Taking Boeing 737-800 aircraft as an example, our results show that it will require additional 3.5–168.7 m takeoff distance in future summers, with variations among different airports.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Anderson J (2011) Introduction to flight. McGraw-Hill

  2. Boeing (2013). 737 airplane characteristics for airport planning, Boeing Aircraft Company 554

  3. Brice T and HallT Pressure Altitude

  4. Coffel E, Horton R (2015) Climate change and the impact of extreme temperatures on aviation. Weather Clim Soc 7(1):94–102

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Coffel ED, Thompson TR, Horton RM (2017) The impacts of rising temperatures on aircraft takeoff performance. Clim Chang 144(2):381–388

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Graham RF (2017). Too hot to fly: record setting heatwave to crush Las Vegas and Phoenix with temperatures reaching 120F as flights are grounded and people are warned of major health issues, DailyMall

  7. Haarsma RJ, Selten FM, Drijfhout SS (2015) Decelerating Atlantic meridional overturning circulation main cause of future west European summer atmospheric circulation changes. Environ Res Lett 10(9)

  8. Hane FT (2016) Comment on "Climate change and the impact of extreme temperatures on aviation". Weather Clim Soc 8(2):205–206

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Karnauskas KB, Donnelly JP, Barkley HC, Martin JE (2015) Coupling between air travel and climate. Nat Clim Chang 5(12):1068–1073

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Lee DS, Fahey DW, Forster PM, Newton PJ, Wit RCN, Lim LL, Owen B, Sausen R (2009) Aviation and global climate change in the 21st century. Atmos Environ 43(22–23):3520–3537

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Piani C, Haerter JO, Coppola E (2010) Statistical bias correction for daily precipitation in regional climate models over Europe. Theor Appl Climatol 99(1–2):187–192

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Pignataro JR (2017). Arizona’s extreme heat causes airlines to cancel flights, IBT

  13. Moore RH, Shook MA, Ziemba LD, DiGangi JP, Winstead EL, Rauch B, Jurkat T, Thornhill KL, Crosbie EC, Robinson C, Shingler TJ, and Anderson BE (2017). "Take-off engine particle emission indices for in-service aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport." Scientific Data

  14. Stuber N, Forster P, Radel G, Shine K (2006) The importance of the diurnal and annual cycle of air traffic for contrail radiative forcing. Nature 441(7095):864–867

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Taylor KE, Stouffer RJ, Meehl GA (2012) An overview of Cmip5 and the experiment design. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 93(4):485–498

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Team FAAS (2008). Density altitude. Federal Aviation Administration Pilot Education Pamphlet Federal Aviation Administration

  17. Thompson TR (2016) Aviation and the impacts of climate change climate change impacts upon the commercial air transport industry: an overview. Carbon Clim Law Rev 10(2):105–112

    Google Scholar 

  18. Williams PD (2016). "Transatlantic flight times and climate change." Environ Res Lett 11(2)

  19. Williams PD (2017) Increased light, moderate, and severe clear-air turbulence in response to climate change. Adv Atmos Sci 34(5):576–586

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Williams PD, Joshi MM (2013) Intensification of winter transatlantic aviation turbulence in response to climate change. Nat Clim Chang 3(7):644–648

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Zhou T, Ren L, Liu H, Lu J (2018) Impact of 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C global warming on aircraft takeoff performance in China. Sci Bull 63(11):700–707

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups for producing and making their model data sets available. We also thank the US NCDC for monitoring climate data and making them available.


Funding for this research was provided through the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no: 11701485) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of Xiamen University (no: 20720150073).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yuntao Zhou.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 15780 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhou, Y., Zhang, N., Li, C. et al. Decreased takeoff performance of aircraft due to climate change. Climatic Change 151, 463–472 (2018).

Download citation