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Home > Air Turbulence > How often do severe turbulence occur?
How often do severe turbulence occur?
Weather - Air Turbulence
Tuesday, 11 December 2007 20:59

Hello Capt Lim,

So from your experience, how often do severe air turbulence occur? And on an average, how long will the turbulence last? Would you give me some more details?



Hi Tom,

From my experience, I do encounter air turbulence almost daily during the course of my normal flying but they are classified as light to medium in nature and nothing to worry about. Severe air turbulence can arise when one is trapped inadvertently inside a severe thunderstorm. This may be because the pilot was trying to navigate through some line squalls and the weather radar was not very effective or the aircraft may be flying in the vicinity of micro-burst activities. (See my FAQ on Windshear)

Severe air turbulence can also be quite prevalent in jet streams found near the frontal systems. In fact, they are more likely to be associated with clear air turbulence (for forecast of clear air turbulence (CAT) risks in the USA, please click
here ). CAT is something you cannot see but know that they are present because of their proximity to the jet streams. Such severe air turbulence is predictable and often shown in the pilot's weather chart. To avoid severe air turbulence, pilots often request for a higher or lower level or to a re-routing.

Sometimes such requests may not be possible due to other air traffic and you have to bear with them for a while. Always remember to have your seat belts securely fastened.

The pilots would take the necessary precautions like reducing the airspeed to comply with the structural limitation and warning everyone to be securely fastened onto their seats.

It is difficult to say how long a light to moderate turbulence will last because it would depend on your journey. It can be as short as 5 minutes to as long an hour or so. If the track to your destination is smack inside the area of clear air turbulence, then you may be in for a long and rough ride. Otherwise the pilots would endeavor to avoid it because it can be quite uncomfortable to everyone inside the aircraft.

Classification of turbulence starts from Category 0 (None) to Category 6 (Extreme). Severe turbulence is Category 5. So how long does severe air turbulence (Cat 5) last? I suppose no sane pilot would wish to encounter one of that severity for he would make all effort to avoid it. If there is one, it would be for a short duration only for every possible means would be made to steer clear of them!


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Comments (10)

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hi! , Low-rated comment [Show]
reply to ^
On some of the larger airliners, the wings are able to flex 15-20 feet up or down before becoming in danger of breaking. The companies design the planes to be able to cope with turbulence so they don't crash.
Mike , 10 Mar, 2009
Is it possible for severe or extreme turbulence to bend wings more than 15-20 feet? I'm talking about sudden EXTREME STRONG GUSTS.
Derek , 20 May, 2009
Severe Turbulence at Fault?
What is your comment on severe turbulence as cause of the Air France crash of today over the Atlantic?
Henry , 02 Jun, 2009
Severe Turbulence in Asia
Hi. I am here to tell all of you that I just encountered two of my most terrifying plane rides on my way to Tokyo (Narita Airport) from Seoul Incheon Airport. We had to fly to Busan first and then to tokyo from there. The Flight to busan was by far the most terrifying experience I have even had. And I have been flying planes for a while. We encountered 45 minutes of "severe turbulance" with no break. People were puking, panicking, and screaming. I started to convince myself that I was going to die. It was northwest Airlines just to let all of you know. Anyways, We made it to Busan and i had a few words with the pilot and pretty much told him to go back to aviation school. There was no reason why we had to endure severe turbulance for that long. It was like riding a wooden roller coaster.
Justin Reese , 24 Jul, 2009
Busan / Incheon Also bumpy

I just came back from Korea and flew Busan to Incheon, if I was not wearing a seat belt I would have hit the roof we bumped so severly! I was very worried! Maybe that route is more prone to turbulance! lol
Coz , 30 Aug, 2009
How would Cabin Crew know that there is turbulence?
What would they then do?
What can't be used and why?
Where would Cabin Crew sit?
Molly , 02 Mar, 2010
Turbulance , Low-rated comment [Show]
I hate flying, fairground rides and anything similar... when i am on a plane with mild turbulance, i just shut my eyes and try to convince myself that i'm in a car on the motorway, and if you do that, you will notice that you get more knocks and bangs when riding in a car then during a bit of turbulance. I have been lucky enough to only have experienced pretty bad turbulance on one flight out of about 20
Chris , 28 Jun, 2010
I'm going to cuba and Im really scared of flying and Im scared if we go through a turbulence or a crash and I have a fear of flying and I'm going on a 35000ft plane and I never been on such huge plane and I really need help and my flight is this week!!!!
Adam , 02 Jul, 2012

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