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WindEEE: 'Tornado in a box'

Natalie Thomas, reporter
April 4, 2012 — At the WindEEE Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario, tornadoes are simulated and studied. And this spring, the data collected will be compared with the real thing.

The WindEEE lab at UWO
The WindEEE lab at UWO

Ever seen a tornado in a box?

That's the idea behind the WindEEE lab at the University of Western Ontario. WindEEE stands for Wind Engineering, Energy and Environment. And inside, they can create any kind of wind system.†

"Right now we have classical wind tunnels that can create straight flows, we have tornado simulators that can simulate tornadoes," says Maryam Refan of the WindEEE Research Institute. "But this model creates ANY of those winds, and some others like shear flows and downburst."

"This is a world class facility right here in Ontario for tornado research so itís tremendously exciting, for people like me especially, doing tornado research," says Dr. David Sills of Environment Canada. "So I'm very excited for it to be built."

The model WindEEE is ready, but they are creating the actual WindEEE Dome. It will be 11 times the size, so the winds will be even stronger than they are now.†

"So because it's big, we can put big scale models inside the WindEEE. So we can simulate wind farms.
We can put different structures inside."†

The WindEEE dome is expected to be ready in 2013
The WindEEE dome is expected to be ready in 2013

"We are going to get closer to the reality which increases the accuracy of the simulations."†

Maryam says all of this research will hopefully lead to safer structures and housing. And later this spring, she's going storm chasing in the U.S. Tornado Alley to test the accuracy of the simulations.†

"We are planning to get low level wind measurements, and it gives us an idea of the flow structure near the ground which is of high interest to us because people live near the ground, right.
And uh, then when we have the data from the real tornado we can compare our results, the simulated tornado with the real tornado."†

The WindEEE dome is expected to be open for research by the summer of 2013.

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