MIAMI – The Turbli Global Forecast System website lets passengers verify the amount of turbulence they will encounter during their voyage. Although it may be welcomed by travelers, airlines might react differently to the technology.

The Turbli website uses forecasts from the US National Weather Service which anticipates conditions up to 36 hours in advance. To access their flight forecast, passengers need to set the airports of departure and arrival and the departing time.

Specifically, the site uses the Global Forecast System (GFS) provided by NOAA to obtain data on the wind velocities. The GFS has a horizontal resolution of 13 km and covers the atmosphere with 64 pressure levels, making it one of the most detailed forecasts in the world, according to the site.

The GFS predicts the temperature, pressure and velocity of air and water vapor across the atmosphere. To do this, a model of the Earth’s atmosphere is built and split into small cells. Then each cell is given an initial condition using data from satellites and weather balloons.

From that point, the forecast solves a set of equations to predict the conditions further in time (usually two weeks further). As per the site, once the simulation is complete, the initial conditions are updated and the simulations are set to run again.

According to AeroTime News, founder and developer of Turbli website Ignacio Gallego-Marcos states, “My feeling is that most passengers are not aware that it’s possible to check the turbulence forecasts. Most assume that such data is only accessible to pilots or airlines. My website comes to fill in that gap.”

Nose of NOAA Lockheed WP-3D Orion “Hurricane Hunter” (N42RF) at SENEX Air Quality-Climate Research Study. Photo: obz3rv3r, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Favorable for Passengers

According to the firm’s website, “Turbli is a tool for passengers who might want to know about turbulence in advance due to a wide variety of reasons, ranging from fear of flying to s trying to concentrate on work through the flight, the parents hoping to walk their babies along the aisle, and many more.” 

Dedicated to anticipate turbulence as reliably as possible, it can come as a relief for travelers. However, the tool also begs the question of how fearful flyers would respond to unexpected turbulence during a flight if they were using the software.

According to Gallego-Marcos, turbulence is still unpredictable, and fearful travelers will be anxious about any unexpected patch of turbulence. Gallego-Marcos thinks that passengers can also have a chance to study the outlook.


How Will Airlines React?

Although most travelers will like to prevent encountering some turbulence during their flight, airlines may opt to fly over a turbulent area in order to save fuel. 

Per AeroTime News, “Those who particularly fear turbulence might be relieved that there was better information available to avoid it. But the reality is that if the choice is [between] light or moderate turbulence or a longer (and more costly) flight, most operators will accept moderate turbulence,” James Johnson, an Air Traffic Control Officer at Birmingham Airport (BHX), said.

Not all airlines happy with the web app, as passengers can expect. According to Johnson, this makes airlines worry about responsibility in case a passenger is injured, whether turbulence is avoided via another flight route.

It is likely that some airlines could prefer to not disclose details to the public on a website in relation to mathematical models on air turbulence as this might potentially open it up to questions regarding civil liability. Consider the scenario where an airline avoids prolonged routing and intentionally flies into fuel-saving turbulence and suddenly a passenger is injured, for example. Added Johnson.


More Turbulence is Coming

According to a 2017 report released by atmospheric scientist Paul Williams of Reading University, bumpy flights could become our new reality as a result of climate change.“Our new study paints the most detailed picture yet of how aircraft turbulence will respond to climate change,” Williams told the CBC News.

According to the study, there will be a significant rise in extreme invisible transparent air turbulence over the next several decades. To be exact, doubling carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere will increase the total volume of extreme clear-air turbulence at 39,000 feet by 149%. As a result, extreme turbulence on passenger flights could become two to three times more frequent than it is today.

“Normally, if anyone worries about climate change, we care about how it gets warmer on the ground, but because of our greenhouse dioxide, the climate is improving by 35,000 miles. It affects the jet stream which only increases the jet stream’s instability.,” said Wiliams.

Featured image: NOAA Lockheed WP-3D Orion N42RF, also known as “Kermit,” in its new paint scheme following a major 19-month overhaul. Photo: Mike Mascaro/NOAA