• aviation weather;
  • gravity waves;
  • Lighthill–Ford


Recent research has shown that Lighthill–Ford spontaneous gravity wave generation theory, when applied to numerical model data, can help predict areas of clear-air turbulence. It is hypothesized that this is the case because spontaneously generated atmospheric gravity waves may initiate turbulence by locally modifying the stability and wind shear. As an improvement on the original research, this paper describes the creation of an ‘operational’ algorithm (ULTURB) with three modifications to the original method: (1) extending the altitude range for which the method is effective downward to the top of the boundary layer, (2) adding turbulent kinetic energy production from the environment to the locally produced turbulent kinetic energy production, and, (3) transforming turbulent kinetic energy dissipation to eddy dissipation rate, the turbulence metric becoming the worldwide ‘standard’. In a comparison of ULTURB with the original method and with the Graphical Turbulence Guidance second version (GTG2) automated procedure for forecasting mid- and upper-level aircraft turbulence ULTURB performed better for all turbulence intensities. Since ULTURB, unlike GTG2, is founded on a self-consistent dynamical theory, it may offer forecasters better insight into the causes of the clear-air turbulence and may ultimately enhance its predictability. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society