Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 13:25 UK

Air turbulence tests 'improved'

Dr Williams hopes the technique will be used by the aviation industry

A more accurate way of predicting air turbulence for aeroplanes has been developed by researchers.

Dr Paul Williams, from the University of Reading, was part of a global team of academics who have developed a new forecasting technique.

Dr Williams said clear-air turbulence can strike suddenly, causing damage to planes and injury to passengers.

The new method predicts energy associated with gravity waves in the atmosphere around jet streams.

The type of gravity wave the team has identified as a possible source of bumpiness is generated around jet streams of fast moving air at high altitudes, near cruising levels for aeroplanes.

'Smoother flights'

The new forecasting technique differs from the current methods because it is based on a mathematical model of the actual physical process.

The study claims weather forecasters struggle to predict where and when clear-air turbulence will strike as it happens away from any obvious severe weather, like thunderstorms, and so is hard for pilots to avoid.

Dr Williams said: "Our new method for predicting clear-air turbulence significantly outperforms the approach used currently, which dates back to the 1960s.

"I hope it can be used operationally as soon as possible, and that it leads to smoother flights and a reduction in human injuries and aeroplane damage."

The research has been published in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences.

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