Daily Video

June 22, 2017

Grounded airplanes and the unexpected consequences of climate change

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    • An extreme heat wave is currently affecting the western and southwestern United States. Temperatures in Death Valley, California reached 127° Fahrenheit and the mercury climbed to 118° in Phoenix, Arizona. Climate change is leading to more frequent and extreme heat waves, according to an analysis published in the journal “Nature Climate Change.” It found that 30 percent of the world’s population is exposed to dangerous heat 20 or more days per year.
    • About 40 flights from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport were delayed or canceled because temperatures were too high for planes to safely take off. Airplanes achieve lift from the number of air molecules surrounding them. As the air temperature increases, the molecules expand and spread out, forcing the plane to take off at a greater speed to achieve lift with fewer air molecules and requiring a longer runway.
    • A one-degree Celsius increase in global surface temperature might not seem significant, but its effects can be exacerbated in isolated locations. As Phoenix dealt with its extreme heat wave, wildfires raged in California. The Florida coast and lowlands in the southeastern United States will have to address sea level rise in the coming years.
    • As the climate changes, civilization will have to adapt to survive in a different set of circumstances. These changes might have to include longer runways and electricity grids that can handle increased demand for air conditioning.

  1. Essential question: How does climate change affect everyday life?
  2. Why is it more difficult for a plane to take off in hot air? How can this challenge be surmounted?
  3. What are some of the changes civilization will have to undergo to adapt to the changing climate?
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