Air turbulence strong enough to injure airline passengers and crew could become twice as common because of climate change, a study claims.

Rising carbon dioxide emissions are increasing the temperature difference between bands of air at cruising altitude, according to research by the University of Reading.

This strengthens the jet stream, the ribbon of strong winds which flows from west to east around the planet.

The acceleration of the jet stream is causing it to become less stable. Layers of air within it move at different speeds and this difference is increasing as the planet warms, producing more turbulence for aircraft.

Researchers found that the growth in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere expected by 2050 could increase severe turbulence by at least 85%.

The altitude of an aircraft can deviate suddenly by around 100ft up or down during such severe turbulence, causing anyone unbuckled and any unsecured object to be thrown around the cabin.

Dr Paul Williams, who conducted the research, told The Times: “A simple analogy would be turbulence in a river: when the water is flowing slowly there isn’t much turbulence, but when the flow rate increases after heavy rainfall the turbulence becomes stronger.

“For most passengers, light turbulence is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience, but for nervous flyers it can be distressing.

“However, even the most seasoned frequent flyers may be alarmed at the prospect of a doubling by the 2050s of the amount of severe turbulence, which frequently hospitalises air travellers and flight attendants around the world.”

He claimed that injuries were under-reported by the airline industry so it was difficult to measure the scale of the problem.

The study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, said that increased turbulence might not result in a rise in injuries if airlines became better at forecasting it and taking avoiding action.