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A Scientist and a Supercomputer Re-create a Tornado

UW-Madison News, Eric Verbeten, March 13, 2017

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are using supercomputer simulations to study the structure of tornado-producing supercell thunderstorms. The researchers say they can create in-depth visualizations of supercells and discern how they form and ultimately spawn tornadoes. The most recent simulation recreates the “El Reno” tornado, which touched down in Oklahoma in 2011 and caused damage over a 63-mile area. Using real-world observational data, the researchers were able to recreate the weather present at the time of the storm and witness the steps leading up to the creation of the tornado. The simulation reveals in high resolution the numerous “mini-tornadoes” that form at the onset of the main tornado. As the funnel cloud develops, the mini-tornadoes begin to merge, adding strength to the storm. The researchers used the Blue Waters Supercomputer housed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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