Supercell model. © Leigh Orf, University of Wisconsin.
Leigh Orf, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is trying to unravel the phenomena that lead to the formation of tornadoes. Why do some, but not all, supercell thunderstorms turn into devastating tornadoes? To answer this question, he created a simulation on one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, the Blue Waters at the University of Illinois. Orf modelled an especially powerful tornado that hit Oklahoma on May 24, 2011, recreating it in a tridimensional model about 120 km wide and long and 20 km high, cut up into 1.8 billion separate cubes. Within each cube, the computer simulates factors such as wind speed and direction, temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity and precipitation like snow, hail or rain. “For the first time ever, we were able to study the internal workings of a supercell that gave rise to a tornado, and to watch the process unfold”, explained Orf.
⇨ Popular Science, “Come watch a supercomputer simulation of a devastating tornado.”
⇨ NCSA’S Advanced Visualization Laboratory, “Making of Super Tornado.”