A document describes a tool that predicts the likelihood of land-falling tropical storms and hurricanes exceeding specified peak speeds, given the mean wind speed at various heights of up to 500 feet (150 meters) above ground level. Empirical models to calculate mean and standard deviation of the gust factor as a function of height and mean wind speed were developed in Excel based on data from previous hurricanes. Separate models were developed for Gaussian and offset lognormal distributions for the gust factor. Rather than forecasting a single, specific peak wind speed, this tool provides a probability of exceeding a specified value. This probability is provided as a function of height, allowing it to be applied at a height appropriate for tall structures.

The user inputs the mean wind speed, height, and operational threshold. The tool produces the probability from each model that the given threshold will be exceeded. This application does have its limits. They were tested only in tropical storm conditions associated with the periphery of hurricanes. Winds of similar speed produced by non-tropical system may have different turbulence dynamics and stability, which may change those winds’ statistical characteristics.

These models were developed along the Central Florida seacoast, and their results may not accurately extrapolate to inland areas, or even to coastal sites that are different from those used to build the models. Although this tool cannot be generalized for use in different environments, its methodology could be applied to those locations to develop a similar tool tuned to local conditions.

This work was done by Frank Merceret of Kennedy Space Center. KSC-13347

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.