School of Civil Engineering

Wind Research Laboratory (WiRL) is comprised of atmospheric scientists and engineers that conduct specialised, interdisciplinary research in the following areas:

  • Catastrophe loss modelling
  • Post-storm damage assessments
  • Severe convective thunderstorms (e.g. downbursts and tornadoes)
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Wind engineering
  • Wind tunnel research
  • Bluff body (building) aerodynamics

Current projects


A supercell thunderstorm.

Characterising the hazard, structure, and impacts of severe convective wind storms

This project aims to quantify the risk convective wind storms pose to Australia in a manner that ensures engineers and disaster managers can meaningfully mitigate the impact of future events. Specifically, this project is

  1. developing a national convective wind storm climatology using a coupled observation-simulation approach to extreme value analysis and event based stochastic modelling,
  2. estimating the expected change in convective wind hazard to Australia under projected climate change scenarios,
  3. utilising the growing body of three-dimensional wind field data – radar and anemometry based – to develop novel spatio-temporal wind field models for convective wind storms

This project is funded through a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council.

Cyclone Yasi devastation in Tully, QLD

Cyclone Yasi devastation in Tully, QLD

Storm Reports

When severe wind events (cyclones, thunderstorms, tornadoes) results in damage to structures, WiRL conducts post-event survey work to learn more about the fundamental nature of the near-surface wind fields that have occurred, and also to understand why/how structures failed. Below are links to survey reports that WiRL has participated in:

Brisbane hailstorm: 27 November 2014

Fernvale supercell: 27 October 2015

Sydney tornado and outflow: 16 December 2015
Tropical Cyclone Debbie: 2017 (CTS Report; WiRL Report)

Funding for storm report survey work comes from a number of sources and is often undertaken in collaboration with researchers from other institutions. 

Disaster Scenario Analysis

Tropical cyclone scenario model

Using realistic disaster scenario analysis to understand natural hazard impacts and emergency management requirements

Tropical cyclones damage buildings, infrastructure and coastal communities throughout the tropical world, including Australia. One way engineers and disaster managers plan for these events is through the use of probabilistic hazard and loss models. This project, led by Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr. Richard J. Krupar III, seeks to build a tropical cyclone scenario model for the Australian region. The model will be developed such that it will generate information on potential wind, wind driven rain and inundation damage to building and infrastructure assets, as well as generating estimates of population displacement. The model will have the capability to run either for standalone hypothetical scenarios, in an event reconstruction mode, or as an ensemble damage forecast tool when coupled with probabilistic forecast tracks, such as those produced by the Bureau of Meteorology. Funding for this project has been awarded through the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and is being undertaken in collaboration with researchers from Risk Frontiers.

Transmission Towers

Transmission Towers

Numerical simulation of the progressive collapse of transmission line systems

This project, led by PhD candidate Fabio Oliveira, aims to investigate transmission line (TL) longitudinal cascades triggered during extratropical or downburst wind events by applying time-domain dynamic analysis, based on a central finite difference scheme. The post-elastic behavior of the steel lattice supports is incorporated through nonlinear analytical techniques. This procedure incorporates geometric and material nonlinear effects also accounting for large displacements according to an updated Lagrangian formulation. Wind loads for the dynamic analysis are produced based on correlated time-dependent wind speed histories. An autoregressive moving-average method (ARMA) is employed to add turbulence to the extratropical and downburst wind fields according to stochastic process theory. Founded on case studies performed with the model, this project aims to suggest procedures for including cascade loading in the design of transmission line supports, based on a desired safety level


A supercell thunderstorm.

Tropical Cyclone Wind Field Characterisation

The aim of this project, led by PhD student Thomas Klötzke, is to measure, analyse and simulate near-surface wind fields during landfalling TCs, primarily along the Queensland coastline. Observational data will be collected through coordinated deployments of the Surface Weather Relay and Logging Network (SWIRLnet) of portable anemometers in the path of landfalling tropical cyclones. Captured events will be analysed to assess the turbulent characteristics in the very near surface tropical cyclone boundary layer. Events will also be simulated using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) numerical model to assess the role of local topography and terrain in defining the turbulence regimes within these types of storms. Observational research will be carried out in collaboration with researchers at the Cyclone Testing Stations (James Cook University) and partial funding is received from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.

Unsteady bluff body aerodynamics

Wind loads on bluff bodies

Unsteady bluff body aerodynamics

This project seeks to understand the fundamental nature of wind loads on bluff bodies subject to highly non-stationary wind fields. In concept this represents the wind loading scenario that would occur during a severe thunderstorm outflow or tornado. Research is being undertaken on two fronts, 1) experimentally in the School’s Unsteady Wind Tunnel, and 2) observationally through analysis of full scale measurements of wind loads on buildings during these types of events. Initial work on this project has been funded through an internal UQ grant and is being undertaken in collaboration with researchers from the University of Illinois.