Geography of a Tragedy: Finding a Plane in the Middle of the Atlantic

OB-DU029_AirFra_NS_20090601084611.gifYesterday, an Air France passenger plane traveling from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France disappeared in a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean in what will likely soon be confirmed as the deadliest airliner tragedy in a decade.

As you stay apace of the breaking news coverage over the next hours, here are a couple articles I’ve come across that highlight some of the more geographic aspects of the crash and recovery efforts.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has an excellently produced feature complete with video and multimedia interactives. Be sure to check out the Air France flight map and historical timeline of airplane crashes in the Atlantic.

The article also offers some insights into the meteorological factors that may have contributed to the plane’s failing and the technological capabilities of modern aircraft to detect and monitor weather conditions.

Were thunderstorms to blame for the crash?

The area approximately 700 miles off the coast of Brazil where the plane disappeared is part of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) near the equator where maritime winds from the Northern and Southern hemispheres meet to produce thunder clouds and rainstorms; the ITCZ is also responsible for distinct wet and dry seasons in the region. The exact cause of the crash is still under debate: all planes and the pilots who fly them are well-equipped to deal with both thunder and lightning, and it is rare for significant complications to result from these forces alone.
Should planes be better equipped with more sophisticated radar technology?

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