Buckle Up! Rides in the Sky Might Get Bumpier

Mar 9, 2023

Turbulence Intensity

If you’ve ever been on a plane and the ride became especially bumpy, you might want to get used to that experience. That’s called turbulence. It’s expected to become more commonplace in the coming years. Climate change is changing weather patterns.

Over the past week, two planes were hit with strong turbulence that hurt passengers. One passenger died. Another was sent to the hospital. Such severe injury is very rare, experts say. They added, though, that it’s important for people to wear their seatbelts when on a plane. That’s the best way not to get injured.

Only about 3% of the atmosphere has light turbulence at flight cruising levels. About 1% has moderate turbulence. Just a few tenths of 1% have severe turbulence, a professor told NPR. "You're virtually guaranteed to be safe," he said.

Still, there are chaotic moments in the sky. Passengers who get hurt usually are walking through the cabin or aren't wearing their seatbelt. Officials are still trying to figure out if the person who died was secured or walking about the cabin. 

Turbulence is caused by irregular air movement outside the plane. The air causes sharp changes in the altitude or angle of the plane. To passengers, this feels like bumpiness, choppiness, or tossing about. Climate change is impacting jet streams. Those are the narrow bands of wind in higher altitudes of the atmosphere. So, it looks like more turbulence is in our future, NPR reported.

Which of the following details about turbulence is included in both the article and the infographic? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. Only about 3% of the atmosphere has light turbulence at flight cruising levels.
b. Turbulence causes erratic changes in the altitude or angle of the plane.
c. The aircraft remains in positive control the whole time during moderate turbulence.
d. Turbulence feels like bumpiness or choppiness to passengers aboard the aircraft.
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