State-Of-The-Art Tornado Simulator Recreates Twisters For Research

New simulation technology years in the making.

It brings us a step closer to understanding tornadoes and how to better prepare for them.

A professor at Central Michigan University and other researchers developed the technology to simulate deadly tornadoes.

It’s all an effort to help predict when they are going to happen.

The tornado simulator is the result of about a decade of work at CMU in Mt. Pleasant.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Melvin Kimbrough took a closer look at the simulator and have more details.


It’s not just any computer.

The supercomputer can recreate the right conditions of a storm and watch as a tornado forms.

“You have this incredible force that is both pushing things but it is also throwing things,” says Leigh Orf.

It’s a project Professor Leigh Orf has been working on for almost a decade.

“What we’ve done is we’ve managed to use a computer model which is basically a computer program that is designed to run on giant supercomputers that takes the laws of physics and turns them into something a computer can solve,” Orf says.

The program uses equations and data gathered from studying storms to recreate just the right conditions for a big tornado to form.

It’s helped to make it easier to understand what makes these twisters happen.

“They are the strongest winds you are ever going to find naturally on the surface of the earth,” Orf says. “Hurricanes will produce steady winds over a larger area but tornadoes produce stronger winds in a smaller area.”

These images use 100 terabytes of information, which is a lot of information to work with, but that helps researchers and meteorologists stay ahead by preparing for local disasters.

“Just last week in Illinois, in Northern Illinois which is not exactly in tornado alley, an EF-4 tornado hit the town of Fairdale,” Orf says. “The little town…it pretty much decimated the town. That’s really the ultimate goal of this research, to get people to avoid being in the path of these tornadoes.”

Professor Orf says with the program’s help, it will be easier to provide much clearer warnings for people in the future.

“If it shows up in the field, then maybe we found a piece of the puzzle.”

This week is also National Severe Weather Awareness Week…to remind people to be better prepared for stronger storms as they start showing up.