turbulence downwind of wind turbines

What causes turbulence?

Turbulence is the up-and-down air currents that help to mix the air in the troposphere. It is usually mentioned in the context of airplane flights, where these air currents can feel like "bumps in the road" while flying.

Turbulence can occur in the lowest part of the troposphere during the daytime when heating of the sun causes convective mixing of the air. Once the airplane rises above this turbulent "boundary layer", the air becomes smoother.

But other processes can also cause these up- and down-drafts. One example is convective clouds. If an airplane must fly through a thunderstorm, these updrafts and downdrafts can be very strong.

There is also "clear air turbulence", which can also become very strong. This usually occurs near jet streams, where rapidly changing wind speeds with height can combine with an unstable air layer to cause "waves" of up and down motion in this air layer.
(page last updated 11/2/2012)
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