Fluid mechanics of natural hazards research

Fluid mechanics can play a significant role in many natural and man-made hazards. These include severe winds in hurricanes and tornadoes, wildfires, flooding from extreme rainfall events, dispersion of toxins in the atmosphere and water ways from accidental pollutant releases, and the transport of windborne debris during wind storms. Understanding the fluid mechanics of natural and man-made hazards can greatly improve our ability to mitigate the consequences of these events. Particular areas of interest to the fluid mechanics of hazards research group are outlined below. Click on the section titles for more details on current and past research projects.

Windborne debris flight

Wind borne debris is a major risk from many natural hazards. Windborne debris can damage buildings and injure people during severe storms. Our research group is focused on the conditions under which debris becomes windborne and the dynamics of the resulting flight. This is particularly important for tornadoes as most research has focused on debris flight in straight line winds and is likely not directly applicable to tornadoes.

Wildfire spread and ember storms

Wildfires are a major natural hazard and growing risk due to the growth in home building at the wildland urban interface (WUI). These fires can be catastrophic in terms of lives lost (e.g. King Lake) or economic cost (e.g. Fort McMurray). Our group has focused on providing detailed experimental data on ember flight to provide validation data for fire risk models.

Performance based design of Low impact Development stormwater infrastructure

Low Impact Development (LID) technologies are typically used for improving the water quality of runoff from land developments. However, they also have the potential to reduce the runoff volume from a site thus reducing the required size of downstream stormwater infrastructure. Our research group is focused on detailed hydraulic and hydrologic characterization of LID technologies so that they can be incorporated into performance based design of stormwater management systems.

Buoyancy effects in fluids

There are many environmental flows in which fluid density differences either drive flows or inhibit mixing. Two areas of particular interest are the behavior of turbulent plumes and the dispersion of dens gas pollutants. Plumes play a role in a range of environmental flows including building ventilation flows, fire plumes that loft embers into the air, and smoke plumes in building fires. Dense gas releases in urban areas can have reduced dispersion rates due to wind blockage from buildings and because the fluid density suppresses vertical mixing. Our research group is interested in characterizing these mixing process and understanding how turbulence generated within the urban canopy can influence dispersion rates.