These Insane Labs Recreate Frightening Forces Of Nature

These Insane Labs Recreate Frightening Forces Of Nature

Knowledge is the key to survival when nature turns hostile, whether because we’re living on trembling ground, building homes along vulnerable coasts, or navigating through dangerous water. That’s why scientists study nature’s greatest acts of destruction — by recreating them. Here are 10 labs where they do it.

Picture: Fire scientists at the IBHS Research Center recreate an ember storm in the lab’s large test chamber, via Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Research Center

They do it to help firefighters, rescue workers, and even civilians in the fight for survival. These scientists study the geologic and meteorologic phenomena behind natural disasters — and to do that, they must stage them in controlled environments. Welcome to the labs that are designed for disaster, where researchers unleash the devastating forces of nature, cataclysms, accidents and giant balls of fire.


A 75m long ice pool at Aker Arctic Technology Inc’s ice laboratory, in Helsinki, Finland. The company specialises in the design, testing, evaluation, simulation and development of icebreakers and other ice-going vessels as well as structures for arctic oil and gas field operations.

Picture: Aker Arctic Technology

Picture: Aker Arctic Technology

Picture: Aker Arctic Technology

Picture: Aker Arctic Technology


The US Coast Guard’s new Rescue Swimmer Training Facility, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The training pool is approximately 50m x 25m, measuring 3.7m deep, and holds more than three million litres of water.

Picture: PO2 Walter Shinn/DVIDS


The 9D6B Modular Egress Training System, at Aviation Survival Training Center Jacksonville, Florida.

Picture: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adam K. Thomas/US Navy

Picture: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon Renfroe/US Navy

Picture: Aircrew In-Flight Technician Airman Scott Beach/US Air Force

Picture: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class ShannoUS Nan Renfroe/U.S. Navy


The Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division’s newly renovated “Indoor Ocean”, called the Manoeuvring and Seakeeping Basin (MASK) facility, helps the Navy to understand extreme maritime circumstances. MASK was built in 1962, and it’s still the US Navy’s biggest wave pool: 108m long, 73m wide.

Pictures: Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division/US Navy


The Oregon State University’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory is a key facility for coastal and ocean engineering research, including programs for tsunami research and coastal hazard mitigation.

Picture: Rick Bowmer/AP

Picture: OSU

Picture: Rick Bowmer/AP

Picture: Rick Bowmer/AP

Picture: OSU


A large scale indoor model of the Yangtze River at the Hydraulics Lab of Changjiang Water Resources Commission in Wuhan, China.

Picture: CSCE


The FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility, at the University of Edinburgh, UK, lets engineers easily test their new wave turbines for tidal power in a controlled facility. FloWave is a 25m diameter pool and it is circular — so complex waves, fast currents and large water spikes can come in any direction rather than just one.

Picture: Edinburgh University

Picture: Callum Bennetts


The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Research Center, a $US40 million hangar of destruction in South Carolina, is where experts can destroy full-scale model houses with rainstorms, hail, tornadoes and wildfire. The 1950 square metre test chamber is as tall as a six-storey building, and big enough to accommodate nine 214 square metre model homes at the same time.

Picture: IBHS Research Center

Picture: IBHS Research Center

Picture: IBHS Research Center


The Iowa State University’s Tornado/Microburst Simulator can generate a translating microburst-like jet (1.8m diameter) and a tornado-like vortex (1.2m diameter) for model testing, in order to understand the effects of tornados on buildings and other structures.

Picture: ISUengineering

Picture: Iowa State University


This is the world’s largest shake table earthquake simulator in Miki City, near Kobe, Japan. Measuring approximately 20m by 15m, the table can support 1:1 scale building experiments weighing up to a million kilograms, like the seven-storey condominium below, subjected to a simulated 6.7-magnitude earthquake.

Picture: Colorado State University

Picture: Simpson Strong-Tie