Supercomputer Recreates Tornado

A team, lead by UW-Madison CIMSS researcher Leigh Orf, successfully recreated a monstrous supercell that produced several tornadoes in 2011, one of which registered as an EF-5 and touched down near El Reno, Oklahoma, using the Blue Waters supercomputer. The computation was completed in approximately three days versus the decades that would be required on a standard computer, and the research team plans to keep refining the model so they can keep unraveling the mysteries of tornado formation. Increasing scientific knowledge of severe weather events, like supercells, has important implications for enhancing life-saving storm warning systems. Read more for another video and additional information.

The supercomputer broke down the enormous supercell into nearly two billion small chunks spread over a 75 square mile area. The wind speed, temperature, pressure humidity and precipitation of each of those smaller sections was then individually calculated before they were reassembled into one large recreation of the entire storm.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to peer into the inner workings of a supercell that produces a tornado. We have the full storm, and we can see everything going on inside of it. This type of work needs the world’s strongest computers just because the problem demands it…there’s no way around it,” said Orf.