In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is a fluid regime characterized by chaotic, stochastic property changes. This includes low momentum diffusion, high momentum convection, and rapid variation of pressure and velocity in space and time.
There is turbulence in everything around us and it is nature's way of showing us just how imperfect she can be. Turbulence affects Grand Prix cars and the sport of F1 racing has turned into a procession of cars from start to finish because the cars cannot run in close proximity to each other because of turbulence. Turbulence causes massive structural strain on long-span bridges. The aviation industry is badly affected by air turbulence and although many of you fly on a regular basis, I doubt any of you have researched turbulence as much as I have. I hope you find this useful.
Without getting into Geo-Physics and Meteorology let us just assume that there are a variety of "Causes" for Turbulence ranging from non-uniform heating of the atmosphere, Storm Clouds and high-speed, high-altitude winds like the Jet-Streams (only at the periphery). There are also several types of turbulence differing by the nature of the forces that act upon the air-frame. These range from mild choppiness to Extreme turbulence. Most of the time the Pilots are in a position to detect the causes of turbulence using the on-board Weather-Radar, communications from nearby aircraft and ground control and by visually scanning the skies around for tell-tale signs such as Cloud formations. What they are trying to avoid are the sudden updrafts and downdrafts that can put tremendous stress on the air-frame and cause mild to severe discomfort to passengers. In some rare cases turbulence has resulted in severe injury and even death to passengers and cabin crew.
Most of these incidents have been caused by a phenomenon known as "Clear Air Turbulence" which is impossible to detect and can be quite severe. Remember to always fasten your seatbelts while you are in your seat and minimize the time you spend loitering around the aircraft. Keep the blood flowing but it is probably a good idea to avoid chatting up the friendly stewardess in the kitchen area.
I am a terrible flier in turbulent conditions. I have a condition that affects me everytime there is a sudden change in altitude, speed and direction. I immediately feel dizzy, disoriented and ticklish all at the same time. It can be quite disconcerting and I feel ashamed that something like this can affect me while most of the people around me carry on as if nothing happened at all.
I have discovered that if I take control of the situation in my mind, the effects are minimized to the point of being manageable. I imagine that I am flying the plane myself and I place my feet flat on the floor of the aircraft, strap myself in tight and get my back away from the seat-back. Imagine riding a motorcycle and adopt the same position in your seat! This has made my life SO much easier in the air and turbulence doesn't bother me anymore. I often look forward to it because it makes life interesting...especially when you are stuck with a boring companion on a long flight and your iPod runs out of juice.
Flying is possibly the safest way of getting around and turbulence is usually safe for you and the aircraft as long as you are strapped in. Pilots will sometimes use the jet-stream to gain speed while saving fuel at the same time - this can significantly shorten the time it takes you to reach your destination. Jet-Streams are typically smooth in the middle and the turbulence is restricted to the edges.
If you are afraid of flying because of the turbulence and if you are the kind of person who takes the train during the monsoons - try my method and see if it helps. I'd like to hear from you and get some comfort in the knowledge that I am not the only one affected in this way.
Cheers and Happy Flying!!