Western’s Northern Tornadoes Project goes coast to coast to coast with new national scope

Western University is set to become Canada’s leading authority on tornado tracking, research and analysis thanks to a major expansion of its renowned Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP).

The expansion has been made possible by a partnership with ImpactWX, a Toronto-based social impact fund, and involves close collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the lead federal department for a wide range of environmental issues.

It includes the establishment of the ImpactWX Chair in Severe Storms Engineering, as well as the expansion and intensification of NTP data collection, analysis and archiving activities across Canada.

ImpactWX recently supported the NTP with a $6.4 million investment, to which Western added $2.5 million to endow the ImpactWX Chair. Greg Kopp, an eminent Western Engineering professor and NTP’s lead researcher, says the project will help improve safety in Canada and around the world.

“I’m excited and looking forward to continuing to advance our research collaborations to drive the national and international impact of this important work,” says Kopp. “Better understanding of tornado occurrence and intensity will allow engineers to better design structures for the risk and meteorologists to provide effective warnings.”

Combined with support for the pilot phases of NTP, the partnership with ImpactWX has generated a total combined investment of more than $10 million in tornado research at Western.

“We are grateful for the support of our partners at ImpactWX and excited to continue working with them, and our experts here at Western, to build the Northern Tornadoes Project into the premier tornado research program in Canada,” says Western President Amit Chakma.

Another major part of the expansion is the addition of David Sills to the NTP leadership team. Sills, a highly respected severe weather scientist for more than 20 years at Environment and Climate Change Canada, joins Western as the new NTP Executive Director.

NTP has also collaborated with Western Libraries over the past few months to develop a public interface for the ever-growing NTP database of Canadian tornado activity.

A unique Western-led approach, NTP started tracking tornadoes in Northern Ontario in 2017. It expanded Ontario-wide in 2018 and Canada-wide this year. Utilizing high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery, drones and on-the-ground observations to capture and analyze tornado events and their damage, NTP actively works to develop new methods and tools to inform the field of severe storms research and forecasting.

Western University is internationally recognized as a leading university in wind engineering and wind-related research.

ImpactWX’s mission is to enable organizations like Western who, through scientific understanding and public awareness, work to improve peoples’ response and safety during severe weather events.

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