Faster reactions in the event of catastrophes thanks to CT Analyst

14.02.2012

Since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the fear of terrorist attacks is considerable. Thanks to the computer software CT-Analyst, which was jointly developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington and the Meteorological Institute of Hamburg University, Hamburg authorities can now react more quickly to poisonous gas attacks or accidents. The program, that has been tested in the wind tunnel laboratory of the KlimaCampus generates real-time simulations to map the course of the poisonous gas cloud, which is important information for emergency services.

The marketable software was officially presented to the Department of Internal Affairs during a press conference held at city hall at the end of January. "The investment of money, time, sweat and nerves has paid off", said Minister of the Interior, Michael Neumann, and he continued by thanking the project partners.

All participants explored new avenues: the scientists engaged in cooperation with the authorities, while the latter agreed to a research project whose outcome was uncertain.

During the two-year project phase, Hamburg University successfully worked with the Laboratory for Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics of the NRL, the Hamburg Department of Internal Affairs, as well as the police and fire service.

Accident or attack: speed is of the essence

Whether in an attack or industrial accident, emergency services must quickly identify where assistance should be deployed. A situation where every second counts. "With CT-Analyst we know what has to be done", said fire service chief Klaus Maurer. Hamburg now has cutting-edge technology – a "central element for protecting the public".

Applied research

Professor Emeritus Michael Schatzmann, who co-led the project with Professor Bernd Leitl on the KlimaCampus of Hamburg University, demonstrated how the program works. He entered the wind direction, discharge location and gas type into the program sections. Based on this information, the simulation displayed a moving, colorful patch on the digital map of Hamburg that spread quickly from the harbor towards the city centre.

"The innovation is that the software is very fast", he explained. Long calculation times can be bypassed because the program refers to results that have already been calculated arduously. This makes it possible to calculate a poisonous cloud in real time. "Even the development structure is included in the spreading process", adds Schatzmann. The hazardous material would spread differently in sparsely populated suburbs than in densely built-up inner city areas.

In order to verify the accuracy of the program, month-long test runs were performed in the Hamburg wind tunnel whereby the entire city centre of Hamburg was recreated as a model. Then in April 2011, a real experiment using gas took place at the harbor to test the functionality and reliability of the program. To do this a non-poisonous sample gas was released from onboard a firefighting vessel near the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall on the Elbe and the spread of the gas was measured. The happy result: CT-Analyst functions reliably and accurately.