Aerodynamics – The fight against tornadoes.

Unfortunately the last decade the world is ravaged by several big natural disasters.

The Tsunami in Sri Lank and the earthquake in Haïti are regrettably the most well known.
If the increase of natural disasters is a result of global warming is still a great research topic. At the moment we aren’t capable of preventing them, because they are to rare and unpredictable. The only thing we can achieve at the moment is trying to understand the forming of them for faster warning of local people.

That is exactly what William Gallus, a meteorologist at Iowa State University tries to achieve, a “warn-on-forecast” principle. The very basics of a tornado are already clear to meterologists, but Gallus triest to find clues in storms to make tornado conditions more likely.

In Moore there were three very violent tornadoes in the last 15 years: one in 1999, one in 2003 and the last in 2013. Most of the scientist and meteorlogist say this is pure coincidence. Gallus believes that this cant be true due to the rarity of occurence of violent tornadoes. For this he started simulating, using tornado simulators, the effects of local topography on tornado-forming.

By analyzing this he tries to understand tornado forming in critical areas. Thereby they try to achieve to increase the warning time until the tornado will eventually strike. At the moment the average warning time is 13 minutes, but they want to reach 30 minutes at least. People will have more time to take shelter.

But here lies the following problem, most of the buildings aren’t designed to withstand the high stresses due to the incoming air. Some buildings can withstand 90mph straight-line winds, but a tornado is mostly fed by rotating air circulations of 90mph. Those shear stresses are mostly far too high for local buildings to resist. For this reason building design should be takin into account in regions which are statistical most vulnerable to tornadoes.

These are two domains were aerodynamics comes in hand to prevent the safety of the people.
Can you come up with another domain where science and technology tries to beat uncertain phenomena?



1 Comment

  1. Wind shear caused a lot of aircraft accidents up to the 1980’s. This is the sudden change in wind direction causing a sudden drastical drop in airspeed, which can be lethal when encountered close to the ground. In 1988 the FAA mandated all turbine aircraft to be outfitted with special radar systems capable of detecting wind shear conditions ahead, and airport doppler radars were also enhanced with wind shear detection capabilities. Nowadays when encountering wind shear an alarm sounds in the cockpit, alerting the pilots to increase power to withstand the imminent air speed decrease. Accidents due to wind shear are far less common with these technologies than before.



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