UW Mathematician to Study Tornado Turbulence

July 26, 2006
UW Mathematician to Study Tornado Turbulence
University of Wyoming Professor Hakima Bessaih is developing a mathematical model of highly-swirling turbulent fields such as those associated with this tornado photographed last spring near Douglas. She will determine how to use these mysterious vortex filaments to possibly uncover fundamental questions in engineering and energy science. (UW Photo)

Anyone who has seen a tornado has noticed its snake-like core weaving from an imaginary hole in the sky to threaten the ground below. However, not everyone who has witnessed a tornado calls it a "vortex filament" and views it as a window to advance energy science.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a highly-competitive single investigator grant to University of Wyoming Mathematics Professor Hakima Bessaih, who will determine how to use these mysterious vortex filaments to possibly uncover fundamental questions in engineering and energy science.

"Professor Bessaih's research involves modeling the highly-swirling nature of turbulent fields such as tornadoes in the presence of random disturbances," says Sri Sritharan, UW professor of mathematics. He says vortex filaments also can be seen coming off from airplane wing tips, propeller blade tips and windmill blades.

"Understanding the intricate dynamics of such vortex filaments is of fundamental importance in engineering and in energy sciences," he adds.

Earning the grant is a major accomplishment for Bessaih, who just finished her second year at an American university.

"For an early career scientist, winning a single investigator NSF grant in mathematical science is considered a major recognition by scientific peers," Sritharan says.

She received $115,000 for the three-year grant. The money will fund two summer undergraduate researcher positions each year and the research likely will have positive ramifications for the state of Wyoming.

"Given the importance of renewable energy science to the state of Wyoming, it is expected that Professor Bessaih's fundamental contributions to the understanding of vortex filaments will someday help engineers to design windmill blades resistant to damage by turbulent gusts," Sritharan notes.

Bessaih, who considers herself a traditional mathematical theorist, hopes to shed more light on the scientific community's understanding of turbulence.

"The aim of this research is to understand a little bit more about turbulence from the mathematical point of view," she says. "Fluid mechanics represents turbulence models with differential equations, but we don't yet know how to quantify them mathematically.

"The big idea is to be able to communicate more thoroughly with people in fluid mechanics. Combining our model (determined through Bessaih's forthcoming research) with those of fluid mechanics, should help us have a better overall understanding of turbulence," she adds.

Source: University of Wyoming

Explore further: How to cut a vortex into slices

Related Stories

How to cut a vortex into slices

June 4, 2015

A lot of problems associated with the mixing of the liquid in the microchannels could be solved via proper organization of the inhomogeneous slip on the walls of these channels. This is the conclusion of a joint group of ...

An airflow model to reduce time on the tarmac

May 6, 2015

Plans for summer holidays are already taking shape. But before jetting off for some fun in the sun, many travellers will have to cope with long delays on the airport runway.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

December 19, 2014

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

We can eliminate the major tornado threat in Tornado Alley

June 23, 2014

The annually recurring devastating tornado attacks in US Tornado Alley raise an important question: Can we eliminate the major tornado threat in Tornado Alley? Some people may claim that such a question is beyond imagination ...

Recommended for you

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.