This University of Miami lab recreates category 5 hurricanes in a 30,000 gallon tank

hurricanes in a tank sustain
University of Miami/Gort Photography
Think most people die in hurricanes due to wind? Think again. You’re much more likely to die as a result of storm surge, and that’s what researchers are studying in a new $45 million dollar lab at the University of Miami.

Called SUSTAIN, short for SUrge-STructure-Atmosphere INteraction, the lab aims to understand both the ocean’s effect on the atmosphere itself as well as on-land infrastructure. This research is vital: not only will better understanding of storm surges lead to more flood-resistant structures, but will improve forecasting of this often overlooked danger.

SUSTAIN’s hurricane in a tank is colossal. The tank itself measures 75 feet long by 6.5 feet high and holds some 30,000 gallons of water, roughly six times larger than any hurricane simulator ever built. It also produces the severest of conditions: top winds peak out at over 200 miles per hour — stronger than almost any hurricane on record.

Tank operators carry out research by recreating conditions from previous storms and then study their effects on the water. How the waves form and move could be vital to understanding how best to forecast surge movement and intensity, while the spray created from the high winds might be important to understand how storms get their strength.

Why would sea spray matter? There’s at least two possible reasons. As spray is picked up, it evaporates and transfers heat to the atmosphere. Sea water also includes an important compound — sodium chloride — which is known by meteorologists to be an extremely efficient substance to form the heart of clouds and raindrops, or “cloud condensation nuclei.”

Meteorologists have a good handle on these processes on land, but over water it’s a different story. There are theories on how this air-sea interaction may alter hurricane intensity, but frankly there is little in the way of concrete evidence that there’s any link. If everything goes as planned, SUSTAIN will help scientists fill that knowledge gap.

Another side to SUSTAIN’s research is effects of storm surge on infrastructure. Researchers plan to test wave effects on various structure and bridge design in order to gauge its durability and improve construction. While we may never be able to create a “surge-proof” building, SUSTAIN’s research may at least be able to mitigate some of the damage.

Other planned work for the team includes studies to improve satellite imaging of the world’s oceans, development of better sea-based instrumentation, and effects of waves, winds, and currents on ocean biology.

Emerging Tech

With cameras that know dogs from Dodges, Honda is making intersections safer

Honda and the city of Marysville, Ohio are working on creating a smart intersection. The goal would not only help better direct the flow of traffic, it could also help save the lives of pedestrians and cyclists.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (October 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in October, from 'Mindhunter’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

Put your iPad Pro to the test with these great games

Did you recently purchase a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or are you enjoying the 12.9-inch version? If so, we've rounded up a few of the best iPad Pro games currently available on Apple's mobile platform.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Emerging Tech

Boston Dynamics is trying to make fetch happen with its new working robot dog

Boston Dynamics wants to see Spot in the workplace, but not as part of take-your-dog-to-work days. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the technology company believes its extraordinary robo-dog is now ready to start work.
Emerging Tech

Regular paints and plastics will soon be able to ‘heal’ like skin

Imagine if paints, plastics, or other coatings could heal up like human skin in the event that they suffered damage. Thanks to researchers at Clemson University, such technology is almost here.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Microsoft’s Hololens is helping NASA build the new Orion spacecraft

Lockheed Martin is turning to Microsoft’s mixed reality Hololens smartglasses to help build NASA's Orion spacecraft, which could one day help rocket astronauts as far afield as Mars.
Emerging Tech

Shrimp eyes inspire new camera focused on helping self-driving cars see better

By mimicking the vision of mantis shrimp, researchers were able to make significant improvements on today’s commercial cameras. They hope their technology can help mitigate accidents by letting self-driving vehicles see more clearly.
Emerging Tech

This intelligent parachute system can bail out clumsy drone pilots

Parachutes can save drones when they unexpectedly fall from the sky. Among a number of such systems, Austrian firm Drone Rescue is this week showing off its latest design that automatically deploys when it senses trouble.
Cars

‘Bloodhound’ rocket car needs a speedy cash injection to survive

The rocket-powered Bloodhound car has driven into difficulties, with the company behind the project needing a multi-million-dollar cash injection to save its dream of attempting a 1,000 mph land speed record.
Emerging Tech

Tokyo robotic warehouse needs almost no human workers

Uniqlo has unveiled its first robot-powered warehouse that requires 90 percent fewer human workers to operate. The Japanese clothing giant plans to invest close to $1 billion dollars to convert all of its warehouses worldwide.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.
Emerging Tech

Drop everything and watch Boston Dynamics’ robo-dog dance to ‘Uptown Funk’

After a few years of Earthbound training, Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot dog is ready to take on Mars. Bruno Mars, to be precise. Check out Skynet's future pet as you've never seen it before.