Climate change may be responsible for an increase in severe turbulence

Most people have probably been on a bumpy flight - but every now and then, it can get dangerous.

"Strap in tight," - is advice from scientist who says turbulence is about to get worse. 

The headlines speak for themselves. Last week, an Air Canada "passenger jet rocked by sudden and severe turbulence" left 35 people injured, ABC reports.

"You just watched everybody's head in the plane just hit the roof, like a jack in a box," one passenger said to US media.

A flight from Kosovo to Switzerland also made headlines last month after a passenger videoed the extreme turbulence sending belongings and passengers flying throughout the cabin.

Closer to home, passengers on a flight from Auckland to Dubai last week described the sudden violent shaking of the plane, causing heads to hit the ceiling. 

"Passengers are up in the air, face first. Next thing I know, a guy crawls over. He's like, 'why are you covered in blood?'" Emirates passenger Abby Milner told The Project.

So why is turbulence so sudden and unexpected - surely pilots should be able to avoid it?

Paul Williams, an atmospheric science professor, told The Project turbulence can often sneak up on unsuspecting passenger jets.

"[Some encounters are examples of] clear air turbulence... are completely invisible. Not to be seen out of a cockpit window, literally out of the blue," Williams says.

The increasing prevalence of violent turbulence in the news may not be a coincidence.

"Less than one percent of the atmosphere at 35,000 feet has moderately strong turbulence in it," says Williams.

"Of course, we think climate change is going to cause it a lot stronger and a lot more frequent in the future."

Williams believes some parts of the world will see three times the current amount of turbulence within a lifetime.

Air New Zealand says following instructions while flying ensures your best chances of withholding any sudden jolts which aeroplanes are used to. 

"The aircraft has been designed to withstand the turbulence. Putting your seatbelt on, even when the sign is off, is a really smart thing to do," Captain Hugh Pearce, deputy chief pilot at Air New Zealand, told The Project.

Unfortunately, New Zealand is particularly vulnerable to increased turbulence.

"The expectation is for our jet streams to change, and the way the wind moves around the earth to change. It could increase the turbulence we experience in the air," says meteorologist Ben Noll.

"We are susceptible to turbulence because we have two jet streams around us. Converging arrows indicate an area where we might see turbulence, sometimes even clear air turbulence where there are quickly changing wind directions," Noll explains.

To summarise, climate change is seemingly set to impact the frequency and intensity of turbulence and invisible turbulence.

For the feeble flyer, perhaps embracing the 'staycation' is a good idea.

"We have seen serious injuries related to turbulence increase. As jet streams are expected to change overtime - that number may continue to rise," says Noll.

So buckle up, and get ready for a bumpy ride.