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R. D. Sharman, L. B. Cornman, G. Meymaris, J. Pearson, and T. Farrar

Abstract

The statistical properties of turbulence at upper levels in the atmosphere [upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS)] are still not well known, partly because of the lack of adequate routine observations. This is despite the obvious benefit that such observations would have for alerting aircraft of potentially hazardous conditions, either in real time or for route planning. To address this deficiency, a research project sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration has developed a software package that automatically estimates and reports atmospheric turbulence intensity levels (as EDR ≡ ε 1/3, where ε is the energy or eddy dissipation rate). The package has been tested and evaluated on commercial aircraft. The amount of turbulence data gathered from these in situ reports is unprecedented. As of January 2014, there are ~200 aircraft outfitted with this system, contributing to over 137 million archived records of EDR values through 2013, most of which were taken at cruise levels of commercial aircraft, that is, in the UTLS. In this paper, techniques used for estimating EDR are outlined and comparisons with pilot reports from the same or nearby aircraft are presented. These reports allow calibration of EDR in terms of traditionally reported intensity categories (“light,” “moderate,” or “severe”). The results of some statistical analyses of EDR values are also presented. These analyses are restricted to the United States for now, but, as this program is expanded to international carriers, such data will begin to become available over other areas of the globe.

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