As the summer is pretty much upon us now, it is a good time to discuss a certain form of turbulence that will be common over the next few months. Often you will experience turbulence just after take-off and/or before landing despite it being a clear sunny day, with no clouds. So, why? What causes this ‘bumpy air’?
When the above happens, you are most likely experiencing what is usually called ‘convective turbulence’. As shown in the simple diagram on the left, the sun heats the earth’s surface leading to the air at lower altitudes to rise (warm air rises as I’m sure you already knew).
As the air rises above a certain level it cools down and begins to fall again. As a result, the air at lower altitudes is moving in different directions which leads to turbulence.
Normally, convective turbulence only causes mild ‘bumps’ but in particularly hot conditions can increase the level of turbulence to a more moderate level.
What’s important to remember is that regardless of the severity of the turbulence, it poses no danger to the aircraft whatsoever. Convective turbulence is a 100% natural activity that has always – and always will – existed. Pilots do not struggle to control the aircraft when flying through it, regardless of popular belief that they do.
You are most likely to experience this during the middle of the afternoon when the sun is at it’s most powerful. Next time you experience this type of turbulence remember this article and hopefully you will feel a little calmer and forget about the bumps and concentrate on getting off the plane and stepping out into the hot weather that is causing the plane to ‘bump around’!