Breakdown: Why clouds cause turbulence during a flight
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Now that more people are taking flights again, you might be interested in what you see out the window and why your flights are sometimes bumpy.
Have you noticed, in particular, that when an airplane goes through a cloud, you experience more turbulance? Let’s discuss why.
Clouds are made up of tiny water droplets that form by rising water vapor as it cools. These tiny water droplets band together in which the air swirls about unpredictably due to the denser internal conditions compared to the surrounding external air. As a result complex updrafts (rising air) and downdrafts (sinking air) are created.
These cloud-borne updrafts and downdrafts result in unpredictable and quick changes to the lift force on the wings of an aircraft.
More or less lift and the difference between these changes is what causes the aircraft to lurch and jump about during flight, or turbulence as it is called within the industry.
While most encounters with turbulence are fairly routine (due to careful planning and skill), and airplanes are designed to cope with the forces and pressures placed upon them during these minor occurrences, it is the unpredictable nature combined with the low visibility that makes them a danger to pilots, aircraft and passengers.
Storm clouds, as you might guess, are the types of clouds that pilots most want to avoid. These generally contain heavy rain, lightning, hail, strong winds and occasionally tornadoes. Pilots and air traffic control pay close attention to the weather and route flights around these types of storms.
Though they do still have to fly through them to get in and out of the airports, most commercial airlines fly above much of the clouds throughout the duration of the flight.
A typical commercial jet has a cruising altitude of around six to seven miles above sea level. So on a long-distance flight, the plane will generally be above most clouds except for cirrus and the towering cumulonimbus.
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