Turbulence unravelled: Experts model bumpy air flow in hope of giving us all a smoother ride

A bumpy ride during a flight might be pretty much risk-free, but it’s one of the most hated aspects of flying by seasoned and new passengers alike.

We’ve all had that feeling of cold dread when the seatbelt light comes on, the flight attendants sit down and turbulence sends your drink bouncing across the tray table.

Well a new study in the journal Science , has started to unravel the mysteries of turbulent air flow.

A team of Spanish researchers were able to simulate – for the first time – how turbulence spreads. They showed a series of smaller and smaller eddies, that they described as a “turbulence cascade”.

The cascade describes how liquids and gases like air disperse their “kinetic” or movement energy.

“In this model, the transfer of kinetic energy occurs rather like a baton being passed around runners in a relay race,” one of the authors of the paper, José Cardesa, told the journal Nature .

“But one in which the runners get progressively smaller and more numerous.”

Despite the effects of turbulence affecting all sorts of things from cigarette smoke to the flow of blood round your arteries, scientists have previously understood very little about how it works.

But building on this study might provide a full picture of turbulent air, so aeronautical engineers may be able to change the way aeroplanes are built.

In doing so, they could bring us a step closer to more comfortable flights.

“In this model, the transfer of kinetic energy occurs rather like a baton being passed around runners in a relay race,” one of the authors of the paper, José Cardesa, told the journal Nature .

“But one in which the runners get progressively smaller and more numerous.”

Despite the effects of turbulence affecting all sorts of things from cigarette smoke to the flow of blood round your arteries, scientists have previously understood very little about how it works.

But building on this study might provide a full picture of turbulent air, so aeronautical engineers may be able to change the way aeroplanes are built.

In doing so, they could bring us a step closer to more comfortable flights.