Prof. Lombardo wins CAREER award to advance thunderstorm risk assessment

Prof. Lombardo has been awarded the NSF CAREER award for his project Engineering-Centric Thunderstorm Hazard and Loading Characterization. CAREER awards, administered under the Faculty Early Career Development Program, are the NSF’s most prestigious form of support and recognition for junior faculty who “exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”

The research focuses on advancing thunderstorm risk assessment for structural and wind engineering. Winds generated from thunderstorms (i.e., thunderstorm winds) are responsible for a significant proportion of windstorm losses. Buildings and other structures are designed based on full-scale measurements in atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) flow. The limited wind speed data collected on thunderstorm winds near the ground show they possess different properties than the ABL, which in turn influences wind loading on structures. Due to the lack of full-scale wind speed data, the results of numerical and experimental simulations are difficult to validate. This research will obtain comprehensive field measurements that will fill critical gaps in spatial and temporal scales and include joint measurements of wind speed and wind loading. These measurements will be assimilated into new and updated engineering models and frameworks for thunderstorms. To increase broader knowledge of thunderstorm importance, collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) wind engineering facilities at Florida International University and the University of Florida will commence to stimulate research in computational and experimental wind engineering where field measurements are a critical need for simulation. Engaging and educating the public will take place through citizen science, K-12 outreach programs on wind hazards, and local media interviews. This award will contribute to the NSF role in the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP). Project data will be archived in the NHERI Data Depot (

There is currently no ABL analog for thunderstorm winds, due in part to the large variability observed in characteristics relevant to engineering such as vertical profiles of the wind. This project will focus on collocated and 4-D measurements of wind speed and wind loading near the ground at high spatiotemporal resolution that places engineering as the central focus. Specifically, the first task of the project will be to measure wind and wind loading characteristics of thunderstorm winds at a fixed site in Illinois, which will include widely and densely distributed sensors. This objective will be complemented by the second task, which is the measurement of wind and wind-induced loading through field deployments using mobile instrumentation, and the third task, which is the inference of thunderstorm wind characteristics from post-event damage surveys. The fourth task will build new empirical functions and thunderstorm wind field models based on the data collected. These functions and models will incorporate different thunderstorm wind types (e.g., derecho and isolated downburst) and will improve understanding of observed variability. Collection of new and unique datasets will promote new and fundamental discoveries for thunderstorm winds. This research aims toward a comprehensive engineering-based thunderstorm model similar to those developed for tropical cyclones.

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