Wind Simulation Expert Favors Sea Hawks in a Windy Super Bowl
Shawn Wasserman posted on January 31, 2014 |

Sunday will be the first time since the founding of the NFL that the Super Bowl will be played outdoors in a cold weather environment, so the weather has been a contentions topic for sports fans. 

Since engineers are sports fans too, the simulation experts at Autodesk teamed up with broadcasters at Fox Sports to show simulations of the stadium at game time.

Jon den Hartog is a Simulation Product Manager at Autodesk.  He told us that they used the power of the cloud to run multiple simulations of wind conditions for the game.  But the visualization that you’ll see on screen is only a part of the total model.  The actual simulation includes an envelope that’s many times the size of the stadium building so that the impact of external flows can be accurately predicted.

This is not the first wind simulation for Jon and his team.  They’ve modeled other NFL stadiums as well as airports and other public buildings.  Experience has shown that these simulation techniques translates into highly accurate on-field wind conditions.

 “The Meadowlands stadium is a fairly straightforward design with no big openings at the ends or unusual features,” Jon mentioned.  “When we conducted our simulation we found that this leads to a complex swirling effect that results in different wind conditions in all four corners of the playing field.”

To create the simulation you’ll see during the broadcast, the Autodesk team imported a CAD model and ran a number of simulations using Sim360 and Flow Design.  They then used visualization software 3DS Max to create the video effects.  To generate all the possible simulations they might need to represent game day wind conditions, the team used cloud-based processing.  

The traditional on-field wind indicators are flags in the end zones.  However, these won’t show the swirling effects between the line of scrimmage and the end-zone, leading to a risk of missed field goals and worse.  Note that footballs flying end over end are susceptible to a wide range of turbulent flows, so predictions for kickers and kick-off receivers can be particularly challenging.   

Zac Fields, Graphics & Technology VP at FOX Sports, said that "wind is obviously an invisible factor that can directly affect the outcome of a game… Since the wind has a notorious reputation in the New Jersey Meadowlands, and given the magnitude of the game, we looked for and found a great tool to depict this phenomenon in excellent detail which should help the more than 100 million viewers actually 'see the wind’.”

According to Autodesk’s den Hartog, “That swirling wind can have a big impact even on shorter passes, not to mention longer passes, field goals and catching long kicks.  In fact, if it’s a windy day, I’ll pick the Sea Hawks for their stronger running game.”

Source and images courtesy of Autodesk

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