Recreating Hurricanes

Hurricane-related winds and storm surge cause massive damage every year. Understanding and being able to predict the impact of these storms on coastal structures can help save lives and properties. Until recently the most ferocious of hurricanes–category 5 storms that feature winds above 250 kph (150 mph)–could not be recreated in a laboratory scale. Now the University of Miami’s SUSTAIN (SUrge-STructure-Atmosphere INteraction) facility can produce category-5 equivalent winds, waves, and surge in a controlled environment. The massive test section measures 18 m x 6 m x 2 m and can be filled with over 140,000 liters of saltwater. The acrylic walls of the facility let researchers use optical flow diagnostics like particle image velocimetry (PIV) to measure flow anywhere in the test section. Some of their planned studies include experiments on how oil spills behave in storms and how strong aquaculture nets must be to maintain their catch through a storm. It will also be used to study interactions between buildings and storm surge. For more, check out their website or this video from the Weather Channel. (Image credits: Gort Photography, AFP/K. Sheridan, AP Photo/W. Lee; SUSTAIN Laboratory)

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