Yesterday's Singapore Airlines' Fatal Turbulence Encounter - Updated

The location of the 777 about one minute after the encounter. The bright white clouds are thunderstorms.


At 3:07am (CDT) yesterday, a Singapore Airlines 777 enroute from London to Singapore encountered severe turbulence during which (per FlightAware data) the plane suddenly dropped about a -- get this -- half-mile. One person died and dozens were injured and hospitalized in Bangkok -- the city where the plane diverted. 

There are media reports attempting to tie the incident to "clear air turbulence" (the air wasn't clear! -- see above) so the scientists can then attempt to tie the incident to --  you guessed it -- global warming ("is there anything it can't do?!").

I'd like to provide information that makes much more meteorological sense. You will find an explanation at Dr. Cliff Mass' blog, here. Meteorologist Simon Proud has presented an animation of the 777's flight path and you can see where it passes through the thunderstorms. It is available here. The above still image came from that animation. 

Clearly, this was an encounter with a thunderstorm. And, while the thunderstorm grew very quickly, perhaps making it difficult to anticipate, airplanes should never fly through them. I have read the U.S. NTSB has been asked to assist local investigators, which will be helpful. I'm looking forward to reading their report, which will likely take months of work to produce, to see what can be done to prevent these incidents in the future. 

P.S. [5:15pm Wednesday] I'm sorry to report The Wall Street Journal has fallen into the "climate change alarmist" category on this topic. Three excerpts (both quotations):
  • The frequency of such accidents is likely to increase as a result of climate change, aviation experts and officials said.
  • “This should be a wake-up call for industry, for regulators,” said Hassan Shahidi, president and chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation, an advocacy group that has warned that changing weather patterns are likely to increase the frequency and scale of turbulence. [editorial: How does being an aviation expert make you an expert in the future of the climate? I checked his bio and he has zero education or experience in climate]
  • Do we need to consider having access to helmets, especially if there are things that fly all around and fall from the ceiling?” she said in an interview Wednesday. 
Even though AccuWeather -- correctly -- talks about thunderstorms, the WSJ article brings in mountain waves (no), jet streams (no) but then says that thunderstorms "might" have "played a role." As you can see from the animation at the purple link, the pilots flew right through thunderstorms. There's no "if" about it!

Comments

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