Thermal turbulence is an unstable warm rising air that occurs at ground level usually caused by the sun heating the ground and the resulting warm air rising above it. Although it cannot be seen it plays an important part in how a plane is to be navigated safely.
The monitoring of thermal turbulence is necessary to ensure safe take offs and landings as the state of the airflow surrounding a plane is crucial to its flight capabilities. Thermal turbulence is strong enough to throw an aircraft off balance and can cause a plane to veer off course. The airflow temperature can differ dramatically in and around an aircraft. When these different airflow temperatures clash it can cause an effect known as turbulence. These conditions must be monitored to try to avoid such disturbances, but they are not always possible to avoid.
The majority of air travelers have experienced some kind of turbulence during a flight either for long periods of time or just slightly, in either case it can be minor or major tremors. The kind of effect it has is not unlike the blast of air a bellows causes when blown into a furnace. The differing air temperatures feed each other when they collide causing a sudden rush of air.
When the cold air which is circulating over the top of an aircraft meets with the warm air that may be present on the underside this can cause the different temperatures to collide with each other causing unstable air. These conditions have a dramatic effect on a solid moving object such as a plane moving through its flow. Both these different air currents are also responsible for cloud formations such as cumulus clouds which are made up of the warm air rising to meet the cooler air. The presence of clouds shows this reaction has already occurred and that the surrounding environment is continually being subjected to the same processes.
Airlines spend thousands of dollars for onboard aircraft devices that monitor its existence so that maneuvers’ can be made to factor these conditions into flight navigation. Indicators provide a pilot with knowledge of where these differing airflow patterns are. These warnings allow a pilot to take precautionary measures to navigate around them or adjust controls to handle flight through them. It is better to be aware of their existence than to be taken by surprise because of them.
It is reassuring to any air traveler that the crew is armed with this knowledge so that we are able to safely enjoy our travel through the skies.