‘Rip-Roaring’ Bomb Cyclone Pushes Flight from New York to London Two Hours Early
A record-fast flight that travelled from New York to London in just four hours and 56 minutes, arriving nearly two hours ahead of schedule, has emerged as the latest result of “bomb cyclone” conditions brought on by climate change.
“A rip-roaring jet stream at more than 260 miles per hour (mph) turbocharged the trans-Atlantic British Airways flight, which departed New York at 6:20 PM and landed in London at 4:43 AM Sunday,” the Washington Post reports. @Flightradar24 said the flight broke the previous subsonic speed record by 17 minutes.
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“It’s true that we were narrowly beaten by a BA Boeing 747, however they had twice the amount of engines and burnt twice as much fuel as Captain Chris in our brand new, fuel-efficient Airbus A350-1000,” replied Virgin Atlantic, which had two flights the same night under the five-hour mark.
“As it shot across the Atlantic, the Boeing 747-400 jet reached a top ground speed of 825 mph,” the Post adds. “However, the jet did not actually break the sound barrier, because that is measured by its airspeed, or the speed of the plane relative to the air through which it is traveling. On the flight deck Saturday night, the pilots probably saw its airspeed hover close to its typical maximum cruising speed of Mach 0.855, or about 655 mph.”
It isn’t unusual for eastbound flights to “hitch a ride along the jet stream to give themselves a speed boost,” the Post explains. “During the winter, the North Atlantic jet stream is at its most powerful, sling-shotting flights moving eastward across the Atlantic and slowing aircraft moving to the west, often adding more than an hour to the return trip and occasionally even a refueling stop.”
But “the howling jet stream that powered the flight across the Atlantic at such haste gained such strength as a result of the pressure difference between an unusually intense zone of low pressure east of Greenland and a high-pressure zone to the south,” the paper adds, since high winds results from strong pressure differences.
“On Saturday night into Sunday morning, the deep low-pressure area near Greenland was rapidly intensifying, its pressure falling so fast that it met the criteria for a ‘bomb cyclone’, a description given to the strongest mid- and high-latitude storms. The storm’s pressure fell to the same level of some Category 5 hurricanes, dropping all the way down to 930 millibars.”
The weather phenomenon produced dozens of tornadoes in the eastern U.S. and triggered Storm Ciara, which killed at least seven people and wreaked havoc across parts of Europe.
“Although the jet stream can help wintertime trans-Atlantic flights have an especially speedy crossing, they are a leading cause of clear air turbulence,” the Post adds. “Flying through the core of a jet stream can often be smooth, but entering and exiting these zones of extreme winds can be rough, as considerable amounts of wind shear—or winds differing in speed and/or direction with height—is usually present.”
That means trans-Atlantic flights will get bumpier as the climate continues to warm, according to recent studies.