Miami - Hurricanes are the costliest natural disasters that strike the United States. As the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season gets underway, the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science will break ground on a dynamic new complex that will offer unique tools to investigators studying tropical cyclones and their impacts on coastal structures. The facility will also aid marine biologists who are studying the oceans for clues to human diseases and the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.
Dubbed the Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex, it will be located amid the thriving science community located on Virginia Key and host a variety of laboratories that will help oceanographers, meteorologists, marine physicists and engineers study natural and manmade coastal structures and weather phenomena, as well as marine life that can impact human health. Funded in part through a $15 million U.S. Department of Commerce American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant awarded by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the project will be completed in late 2013.
“The Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex will benefit the science community at large,” says UM President Donna E. Shalala. “These laboratories will help researchers study coastal structures, weather phenomena, and marine life, all of which have a profound effect on the health and well-being of people and the planet.”
The Complex will consist of two buildings connected through an open atrium designed to facilitate viewing of the research being conducted in the laboratories. This will allow the school’s scientists to explain to students and visitors, alike, the scientific experiments being conducted in the laboratories as they look on.
The Surge-Structure-Atmosphere Interaction (SUSTAIN) research laboratory occupying one of the two buildings will be the only facility in the world with a wind-wave-storm surge simulator capable of generating Category 5 hurricane force winds in a 3D environment. The 28,000 gallons of filtered seawater pumped into the building will allow scientists to directly observe and quantify critical storm factors such as sea spray and momentum transfers across the ocean’s surface in extreme wind conditions. A sophisticated wave generator will enable simulation of realistic storm surge impacts.
“Forcing, rapid intensification and storm surges — we still grapple with these oceanic and atmospheric processes that take place during extreme weather events,” said Dr. Brian Haus, Principal Investigator and Director of SUSTAIN. “This made-to-order tank, which is about the length of a bowling alley and the width of six bowling lanes, will provide us with a realistic, but scaled and controlled environment where we can observe different aspects of the interaction between sea and air to help us create more complete hurricane predictions. It will also provide an unprecedented opportunity for scientists to collaborate between disciplines to attempt to address the impact of extreme loads (wind and surge) on coastal structures and study how they withstand – or fail to withstand – the elements.”
Designed by the world’s leading aquarium architects, the new seawater tank enables the development and testing of building envelopes to protect critical structures during hazardous conditions, and will also be used to innovate advanced sensor technologies, including remote and optical imaging systems that can be deployed in hurricanes. This experimental test bed will contribute to the next generation of weather and climate simulation models that can help forecasters and emergency response planners throughout the hurricane season.
About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life.
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