Science: Predicting CAT's Claws

Professional airmen have long feared the way-up phenomenon of clear air turbulence—called CAT. But not until recent months, with at least one airline disaster attributable to CAT (TIME, April 11), has awareness of the danger struck home to the high-flying U.S. public. The worst thing about CAT was that even the experts have had little notion of how to avoid its claws—until now.

Clear air turbulence is exactly what it sounds like: an airplane speeding through a cloudless part of the sky can be ripped apart by an invisible tempest. CAT is most often met just above or just below the 30,000-35,000-ft....

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