How fast does turbulence change?


Super Lifetime Elite
This is an interesting situation and I'd like to try to figure it out but it's above my pay grade.

On March 4, since we could not get flights together, two of us took separate flights from Florida to Chicago as follows:
AA2317 RSW-ORD, departed late by almost 2 hours at 1:45pm.
AA1476 PBI-ORD, departed at about 3pm.

My friend on the first flight from RSW told me that it was completely smooth, no turbulence, but the flight from PBI hit some pretty big bumps from Kentucky onward and the flight attendants had to remain seated for the last hour of the flight.

I'm trying to understand how or why that is possible since we both traveled about the same route within about an hour of each other.

Did the turbulence occur only after the first flight ? The rain/sleet/snow storm was ongoing at all times that day all across the Midwest.
Did the planes take different routes or fly at substantially different altitudes?
Or does turbulence form or move quickly, or simply occur in small areas?
Last thought: perhaps my friend and I have totally different perceptions of "turbulence" !!

Thanks for any input !


Staff member
This is a very interesting post. I looked at both flights. What really makes it kind of weird is that they are identical aircraft, flown at the same altitude, and flown nearly the same flight path, the real major difference is the time.

Did the turbulence start after the first flight? Sounds likely for that flight path.
Planes took exact same altitude for cruise and nearly the same flight path.
It was likely a matter of positioning (where the weather was, etc)
And you're certainly right about the last one, perception is everything.
Lately, you guys were quite a distance apart at the same time. At one time, you were near Chicago, and the other near Atlanta.

Fascinating experience. Of course, you got the bumpy flight, right?