A friend of mine who is an experienced captain for Delta ran across this link to a detailed scenario of what may have happened to Air France flight 447 on its way to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. This is a meteorologist who used satellite imagery to describe what the plane likely flew through in the area known for powerful storms called the intertropical convergence zone. My friend has flown this route before and says when you see green on the radar in this area you fly around it. In the U.S. you fly right through green areas, but not here. This pilot may have decided he could get through this cell with some bumps, when in fact, it may have been so powerful the plane could have hit extreme turbulence, which is above bad and severe turbulence. You may want to clear some time-- it's a very cerebral analysis with plenty of jargon, but I think it's pretty conclusive given the comments at the bottom of the page by pilots, which were echoed by my friend.