Posted by: Korry | November 8, 2011

Techie Tuesday: What is Turbulence?

To answer this week’s Techie Tuesday question about turbulence, I’d like for you to think about waves on an ocean.

According to the website Coastal Care, “Waves are generated at sea by the wind. Small ripples form on the water as the wind blows across the ocean’s surface. The size of waves depends on three things: 1. The duration of the wind; 2. The strength of the wind, and; 3. The fetch, or the distance over water across which the wind blows.”

In other words, the wind blows which creates friction with the water which creates waves. The stronger and longer the wind, the bigger the waves.

Now picture a boat on the water like this:

Boat on the water

The wind blows creating the wave, and since the boat is on the top of the water in the wave region, the boat experiences bumpy seas.

A submarine, however, does not have to deal with the wave region because a short distance under water the waves don’t really affect the water much. So the submarine can cruise along in mostly smooth seas while the boat on the surfaces bumps along like this:

Rough seas for the boat. Smooth seas for the submarine.

The same concept applies to an airplane and whether it’s in turbulence or not. This is because the air is a fluid just like the water. And in the sky, there are actually multiple “rivers” of air flowing across different altitudes. (One of the big rivers of air you’re probably familiar with is the jet stream that shows up on almost every weather map on TV). Whenever the plane is flying on the edge of two “rivers” of air, the plane skims across waves in the air causing bumpy skies, or turbulence. Just as with the seas, the stronger the wind–or more appropriately, the greater the difference in wind speed between various rivers of air–the greater the waves in the air and thus the greater the turbulence. If the plane climbs or descends, it can hopefully find smooth air by getting out of the turbulence region and back into the calm region.

Airplane flying between two “rivers” of air

So you see, turbulence is just like waves on the ocean. And the great thing is that the planes are designed to handle turbulence far greater than what you are ever likely to experience on a flight. In fact, during the certification phase, manufacturers stress a new plane’s wing to the breaking point. Check out this video of Boeing’s wing stress test for the 777.

So hopefully that helps explain what turbulence is. It’s totally natural and not a scary thing at all. If you have a Techie Tuesday question, email it to lifesflightplan@gmail.com.
Advertisements

Responses

  1. […] to keep our wings level and keep climbing. I took comfort knowing that smooth air always follows turbulent skies. Now, we both say we’re better prepared to handle the other challenges God sends our […]

  2. […] to keep our wings level and keep climbing. I took comfort knowing that smooth air always follows turbulent skies. Now, we both say we’re better prepared to handle the other challenges God sends our […]

  3. […] that we didn’t see in the darkness and that didn’t show up on our weather radar either. Turbulence doesn’t normally bother me, but this wasn’t just a little light turbulence. For just a […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: