Terms of Use Staff Internal Software Web Engineering Reports Events Collaboration Visualizations Vislab VETS

Clear Air Turbulence

In December of 1992, a DC-8 cargo plane westbound out of Denver encountered severe clear air turbulence. Despite losing an engine (far right side) and 6 meters of wing the crew managed to land the plane safely.

This event - and others like it - are a strong reminder that we don't yet understand clear air turbulence nearly well enough. In this particular case, observational data revealed pronounced Horizontally-aligned Vortex Tubes (HVT). NCAR and NOAA researchers worked together to study the incident and using NOAA weather data, developed a very high resolution numerical model to see what a simulation might reveal.


Jetstream and Air Parcels




VS, VRMS and Enstrophy


QuickTime | Real | MPEG 3.4MB

The view is from the southwest with the Rocky Mountains in white, the jetstream in blue and fast-moving parcels of air in yellow.


QuickTime | Real | MPEG 1MB

The yellow air parcels have been replaced by the enstrophy field in green.


QuickTime | Real | MPEG 63MB

Fields shown include VS (blue, 55m/s), VRMS (yellow, 10m/s), and Enstrophy (red, .1).

Atmosphere Layer:
Boulder, Colorado USA
Horizontal Dimensions:
48 km x 48 km
Vertical Dimensions:
13.35 km
Horizontal Resolution:
30 m
Vertical Resolution:
72 levels, irregularly spaced
Data & Model  
Model Name:
Clark Model
Landsat Thematic Mapper
Data Size:
1 TB raw, 128 GB byte-scaled, resampled and subsetted to about 10GB in a working set.
Variables Visualized:
Jetstream, fast-moving air parcels, enstrophy, VS, VRMS
December, 1992
Time Evolution:
Subsetted to ~27 min, raw data ~6 hours
Time Resolution:
7.5 seconds
219 in subset, ~2800 in overall dataset
Cray J/932
CPU Time:
1500 hours
Creation Software:
POV raytracer, Vis5D
Research Project
Scientific Credit :
  • Terry Clark, Larry Radke, Bill Hall, Bob Kerr (NCAR)
  • F. Martin Ralph and Paul J. Neiman (NOAA/ERL/Environmental Technology Laboratory)
  • David Levinson (CIRES, University of Colorado/NOAA)
Visualization Credit :
  • Don Middleton (NCAR)
Date Catalogued:
© 2002, UCAR, All rights reserved.