Western studying remote tornadoes to improve detection, construction

Western University’s Faculty of Engineering is set to study tornadoes in remote areas, and researchers are hopeful the findings will lead to better detection and tornado-resistant housing.

The most powerful tornado in North America occurred in Canada in 2018, and Western University researchers are studying it, and plenty more you’ve never heard about.

A key aim of the Northern Tornadoes Project is to uncover tornadoes in rural and remote areas, where people aren’t impacted and they’re not reported.

In addition, the research team is looking at enhancing data from tornadoes you did hear about, including the EF-3 that struck west of Ottawa, and the above-mentioned powerful EF-4 tornado that hit Alonsa, MB.

That tornado caused one death, but had it been in a more built-up area, the loss of life likely would have been more severe, according to Western Engineering Professor and Acting Dean Greg Kopp.

Kopp is leading the Northern Tornadoes Project in conjunction with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Using data collected from multiple sources, including ground study and high resolution aerial cameras, the team identified and documented 12 tornadoes in remote areas that had been previously undetected.

Kopp says often the most powerful storms destroy large swaths of trees, in areas no one can reach, yet the patterns they leave are of great benefit.

Using a popular song to drawn an analogy, Kopp says, “If a tree falls in a forest, if you want to think of it, if a tornado falls in forest, (laughs), that’s what we are trying to figure out.”

The end goal of the project is two-fold.

Researchers hope to improve early detection of powerful twisters and, using the engineering data collected, strive to create affordable homes that could survive 90-95 per cent of tornadoes.