Mahalov takes aim to reduce air travelers’ turbulent times

<p>Anyone who frequently travels by airplane has likely experienced clear-air turbulence. It’s the kind of jarring turbulence that can quickly turn a smooth flight into a bumpy ride, often causing aircraft to drop anywhere from a few feet to thousands of feet within seconds.</p><separator></separator><p>A recently awarded $716,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research will fund research by ASU professor Alex Mahalov aimed at reducing those anxious moments for air travelers.</p><separator></separator><p>Mahalov also will study another kind of atmospheric turbulence that poses problems for astronomers.</p><separator></separator><p>Optical turbulence results from the amplitude and phase fluctuations in electromagnetic waves propagating through the atmosphere, which is what causes stars to appear to “twinkle.” It also is a major source of telescope image degradation, making it difficult for astronomers to get clear views into space.</p><separator></separator><p>Mahalov is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Science, with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the university’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.</p><separator></separator><p>Mahalov, working in the engineering school’s Center for Environmental Fluid Dynamics, will use funding from the grant over a three-year period to improve techniques for identifying, forecasting and detecting areas of clear-air turbulence and modeling of optical turbulence under extreme environmental conditions.</p><separator></separator><p>He will collaborate with experts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., on improving the ability of numerical codes to forecast clear-air turbulence, particularly in areas of mountainous terrain.</p><separator></separator><p>“Improved real-time predictability and forecasting of high-impact, clear-air turbulence events will minimize the potential for costly devastation to human life and loss of business assets,” Mahalov says.</p><separator></separator><p>He also will work with astronomers at the observatories at Mauna Kea in Hawaii on using adaptive optics to reduce telescope image degradation caused by atmospheric optical turbulence.</p><separator></separator><p>Mahalov works with ASU’s high-performance computing group on creating real-time, high-resolution environmental forecasts. When researchers study multi-scale dynamics over a relatively limited geographic area, he explains, they need to use high-resolution models to produce accurate predictions.</p>