Jet streams and their roleDate: 11 February 2020 Tags: Geography & Environment
A British Airways flight broke the subsonic speed record during its New York-to-London journey, surpassing the previous record by 17 minutes, and completing the trip 80 minutes sooner than estimated.
The Boeing 747-436 plane was able to achieve a speed of 1,327 kph as it was aided by a strong jet stream generated due to Storm Ciara. Other flights travelling across the North Atlantic from west to east also experienced shorter travel times.
Jet streams are narrow bands of strong winds that flow over thousands of kilometres from west to east. Major jet streams are found near the upper levels of the atmosphere, around 9 to 16 km from the earth’s surface, and can reach speeds of over 320 kph.
The jet streams shift to the north or south depending on the season. During winters, the wind current is the strongest. They are also closer to the Equator during winter.
The major jet streams are the Polar Front, Subtropical, and Tropical jet streams. In India, the Tropical jet stream influences the formation and duration of the summer monsoon.
The polar jet streams form between the latitudes of 50 and 60 degrees north and south of the equator, and the subtropical jet stream is closer to the equator and takes shape at latitudes of 20 to 30 degrees.
Role of jet streams
Jets streams play a key role in determining the weather because they usually separate colder air and warmer air. Jet streams generally push air masses around, moving weather systems to new areas and even causing them to stall if they have moved too far away.
A strong jet stream can provide a potent tailwind to a flight travelling from west to east. This helps reduce the travel time for such flights, as their speeds are boosted.