13th Conference on Applied Climatology and the 10th Conference on Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology

Thursday, 16 May 2002: 10:30 AM
Low Altitude Buoyancy Wave Turbulence—a Potential Aviation Safety Threat
Paul E. Bieringer, MIT Lincoln Lab., Lexington, MA
Poster PDF (207.0 kB)
Low altitude turbulence is one of the most significant safety hazards facing commercial and civilian aviation today. This hazard has been significantly reduced by the development and use of automated microburst and gust front wind shear detection algorithms in FAA systems such as the Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS), the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) and the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS). The algorithms were designed to detect and warn for the presence of low altitude wind shear resulting from a microburst or gust front. These systems have made an unquestionable improvement in aviation safety; however, there are other forms of low altitude wind shear which are also hazardous to aviation.

This paper provides a description of a low altitude buoyancy wave (BW) induced turbulence phenomena, which appears (from the accident records) to also be a significant hazard to aviation. This phenomenon can be particularly dangerous since it does not occur in the high reflectivity regions of a thunderstorm where pilots often anticipate encountering wind shear conditions. In addition to a general phenomenological description, this paper also summarizes several incidents where commercial and civilian aircraft have encountered buoyancy wave turbulence.

*This work was sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration under Air Force Contract No. F19628-00-C-0002. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Government. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the US Government.

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