Numerical simulation of idealised three-dimensional downburst wind fields

M. S. Mason*, D. F. Fletcher, G. S. Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    Convective downburst wind storms generate the peak annual gust wind speed for many parts of the non-cyclonic world at return periods of importance for ultimate limit state design. Despite this there is little clear understanding of how to appropriately design for these wind events given their significant dissimilarities to boundary layer winds upon which most design is based. To enhance the understanding of wind fields associated with these storms a three-dimensional numerical model was developed to simulate a multitude of idealised downburst scenarios and to investigate their near-ground wind characteristics. Stationary and translating downdraft wind events in still and sheared environments were simulated with baseline results showing good agreement with previous numerical work and full-scale observational data. Significant differences are shown in the normalised peak wind speed velocity profiles depending on the environmental wind conditions in the vicinity of the simulated event. When integrated over the height of mid- to high rise structures, all simulated profiles are shown to produce wind loads smaller than an equivalent 10 m height matched open terrain boundary layer profile. This suggests that for these structures the current design approach is conservative from an ultimate loading standpoint. Investigating the influence of topography on the structure of the simulated near-ground downburst wind fields, it is shown that these features amplify wind speeds in a manner similar to that expected for boundary layer winds, but the extent of amplification is reduced. The level of reduction is shown to be dependent on the depth of the simulated downburst outflow.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3558-3570
    Number of pages13
    JournalEngineering Structures
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


    • Downburst
    • Microburst
    • Thunderstorm
    • Topography
    • Wind

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Numerical simulation of idealised three-dimensional downburst wind fields'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this