New Australian research shows that thunderstorms can produce turbulence more than 100km away from a storm cell, calling for a rethink of current turbulence avoidance guidelines.
Dr Todd Lane from the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science says that research has shown that thunderstorms can cause gravity waves which modify airflow, strengthening jet stream and enhancing wind shear significant distances away from the storm cell itself.
“Previously it was thought turbulence outside of clouds was mostly caused by jet streams and changes in wind speed at differing altitudes, known as wind shear, but this research reveals thunderstorms play a more critical role,” he said.
Many flights into and out of the Australasian region regularly encounter thunderstorms and divert around storm cells to try and minimise the affects of turbulence, but Dr Lane says that guidelines on safe distances written many years ago may need to be rewritten in light of the greater understanding of how the storms can affect conditions further away.
“It is time to alter air turbulence guidelines in light of this knowledge and employ new technologies to forecast where it is likely to occur to improve air safety for all air travellers,” he said.