Turbulence has long been considered a priority problem for commercial airlines
as it is the single greatest cause of injuries to flight attendants and
passengers as well as causing structural damage to the aircraft.
Because turbulence is a small-scale phenomenon with length scales of tens to
hundreds of meters, it is difficult to observe with traditional systems, models
or satellites. It is possible to use satellites to measure larger scale
features leading to clear air or convectively induced turbulence.
Scientists at NCAR, UAH and UW CIMSS have developed a number of such
turbulence applications and are now conducting research to integrate them
into expert systems and weather models to produce warning products.
One such product is the Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG) product developed
at NCAR by Dr. Robert Sharman, who leads the FAA AWRP Turbulence Product
Two common sources of turbulence are from breaking waves associated with flow
over mountains and other terrain and tropospause folding, where the lower
boundary of the stratosphere intrudes into the troposphere. ASAP has developed
an automated mountain wave identification algorithm for clouds and water vapor
features that can be used with GOES or MODIS imagery. Also, an ASAP turbulence
prediction tool that effectively identifies instabilities in and near tropopause
folds has been developed utilizing upper tropospheric-specific humidity products
derived from the GOES water vapor channel and corrected for satellite viewing angle