Use the noun turbulence to describe instability or disturbance. If you’re on an airplane during a storm, turbulence is that horrible thing that is causing the plane (and your stomach) to bounce around.

The word turbulence can be used to refer to atmospheric instability, such as sudden, unpredictable air movements resulting from a storm, but the word has a broader meaning as well and you will often hear it used to describe any situation characterized by unrest and disorder. If your stocks are fluctuating wildly in price, that could be a result of turbulence in the stock market. If last year was filled with unpredictable change, you could describe it as a year of great turbulence.

Definitions of turbulence

n instability in the atmosphere

clear-air turbulence
strong turbulence in an otherwise cloudless region that subjects aircraft to violent updrafts or downdrafts
Type of:
bad weather, inclemency, inclementness
weather unsuitable for outdoor activities

n a state of violent disturbance and disorder (as in politics or social conditions generally)

“the industrial revolution was a period of great turbulence
Sturm und Drang, upheaval
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agitation, ferment, fermentation, tempestuousness, unrest
a state of agitation or turbulent change or development
roller coaster
anything characterized by abrupt and extreme changes (especially up and down)
a turbulent state resulting in injuries and destruction etc.
violent state of the elements
Type of:
a disturbance of the peace or of public order

n unstable flow of a liquid or gas

countercurrent, crosscurrent, rip, riptide, tide rip
a stretch of turbulent water in a river or the sea caused by one current flowing into or across another current
Type of:
physical phenomenon
a natural phenomenon involving the physical properties of matter and energy

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