What is atmospheric turbulence and how does it pose a danger in the sky?


Air travel and turbulence have always gone hand in hand with many flights, especially long-haul flights, experiencing bouts of turbulence. the A serious accident on board a Singapore Airlines plane The death of a passenger raises concerns about how dangerous air turbulence can be.

Experts say most flights are unlikely to result in injury or damage, but there have been several recent incidents where this has happened.

Understanding the causes of turbulence can help flight crews and passengers mitigate its impact.

“Fortunately, deaths from turbulence on commercial flights are very rare, but unfortunately they have increased by one case today,” Paul Williams, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, said in a statement issued today.

Here’s how turbulence can cause problems for air travelers.

What is the disorder and what causes it?

There are four main levels of the disorder – mild, moderate, severe and severe.

In light to moderate turbulence, passengers may feel pressure on their seat belts, and unsafe items in the cabin may move.

However, in more serious cases, turbulence can throw passengers around the cabin, resulting in serious injury or death.

“Disturbance during flights can be caused by storms, mountains, and strong air currents called jet streams,” Williams adds.

“In this last case, it’s called clear-air turbulence, and it can be difficult to avoid because it doesn’t show up on the weather radar in the cockpit.”

“Clear air turbulence is the movement of air caused by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, and air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts, or thunderstorms,” according to the FAA website.

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Pilots are sometimes warned of turbulence reports by the Federal Aviation Administration, airline meteorological teams, or even other pilots flying ahead of them in advance. However, the disorder can also occur without warning.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 30 passengers and 116 crew members were seriously injured in turbulence from 2009 to 2021.

Airline passenger traffic is currently estimated at around four billion passengers a year, so such incidents are clearly still rare.

The Federal Aviation Administration cites turbulence as the leading cause of flight attendant and passenger injuries in non-fatal accidents on commercial airlines.

Since airlines are not required to report more minor infections, the total number of infections is unclear.

Fatalities, such as the Singapore Airlines incident, are also extremely uncommon. A December 1997 United Airlines flight from Tokyo to Honolulu also experienced turbulence that killed one person.

“Turbulence makes flights bumpy and can sometimes be dangerous,” says Mark Prosser, a research meteorologist at the University of Reading.

“Airlines will need to start thinking about how to manage increased disruption, as it costs the industry between $150 million and $500 million annually in the USA alone.

“Every extra minute spent traveling through turbulence increases the wear and tear on the aircraft, as well as the risk of injury to passengers and flight attendants.”

A study by the University of Reading reported that extreme weather turbulence has increased by 55% in the past four decades due to… Impact of climate change.

the a reportpublished in June 2023, found that at a midpoint over the North Atlantic Ocean – one of the world’s busiest flight paths – the total annual duration of severe turbulence rose by 55% between 1979 and 2020.

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In 2022, Williams, who co-authored the study, told CNN that he believes severe disturbances “could double or triple in the coming decades.”

He went on to attribute this to “apparent turbulence,” a type of turbulence that occurs suddenly and is very difficult to avoid.

According to figures from the National Transportation Safety Board, flight crews received no warning in about 28% of turbulence-related accidents from 2009 to 2018.

Williams’ analysis predicted that clear-air disturbances will increase dramatically around the world in the coming decades.

“Normally, on a transatlantic flight, you would expect 10 minutes of turbulence,” he added.

“I think in a few decades this might go up to 20 minutes or to half an hour. The seatbelt signal will be on more often, unfortunately for passengers.

The short answer to this is “yes”. 2021 report By NTSB He pointed out that the majority of passengers who were injured in accidents “related to turbulence” were not wearing seat belts at the time.

Since it is sometimes impossible to predict when an airplane will encounter clear-air turbulence, the only way to be 100% safe is to remain strapped in for the entire flight.

In cases of severe turbulence, “where the aircraft is pitched violently and is impossible to control,” structural damage to the aircraft can occur, according to the center. US National Weather Service.

Recent accidents, including those affecting a Singapore Airlines flight, have also resulted in extensive damage to the aircraft cabin.

Turbulence can occur almost anywhere and at any altitude, but some areas are known to be more vulnerable.

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A Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore appears to have encountered severe turbulence over Myanmar after crossing the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia.

After analyzing about 150,000 different flight paths, the turbulence prediction site was found Turpley It found that the trip between Santiago in Chile and Viru Viru International Airport in Bolivia was the most rugged, while the road between Almaty in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, came in second on the list issued last year.

Nashville, Tennessee to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina is ranked as the North American route with the highest average turbulence.

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