From wikipedia...
external image 180px-Cirrus_clouds2.jpgexternal image magnify-clip.pngCirrus uncinus ice crystal plumes showing high level wind shear, with changes in wind speed and direction.
Wind shear, sometimes referred to as windshear or wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere. Wind shear can be broken down into vertical and horizontal components, with horizontal wind shear seen across weather fronts and near the coast, and vertical shear typically near the surface, though also at higher levels in the atmosphere near upper level jets and frontal zones aloft.

Impact on passenger aircraft
external image Windshearaircraftnasa.gifexternal image magnify-clip.png Effect of wind shear on aircraft trajectory. Note how merely correcting for the initial gust front can have dire consequences.
Strong outflow from thunderstorms causes rapid changes in the three-dimensional wind velocity just above ground level. Initially, this outflow causes a headwind that increases airspeed, which normally causes a pilot to reduce engine power if they are unaware of the wind shear. As the aircraft passes into the region of the downdraft, the localized headwind diminishes, reducing the aircraft's airspeed and increasing its sink rate. Then, when the aircraft passes through the other side of the downdraft, the headwind becomes a tailwind, reducing airspeed further, leaving the aircraft in a low-power, low-speed descent. This can lead to an accident if the aircraft is too low to effect a recovery before ground contact. As the result of the accidents in the 1970s and 1980s, in 1988 the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration mandated that all commercial aircraft have on-board windshear detection systems by 1993. Between 1964 and 1985, wind shear directly caused or contributed to 26 major civil transport aircraft accidents in the U.S. that led to 620 deaths and 200 injuries. Since 1995, the number of major civil aircraft accidents caused by wind shear has dropped to approximately one every ten years, due to the mandated on-board detection as well as the addition of Doppler weather radar units on the ground. (NEXRAD)[21[[|]]]


Back to Special Emphasis Items


Aviation Weather For Pilots and Flight Operations Personnel
Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
Aviation Instructors Handbook
Instrument Flying Handbook