University of Western Ontario: Severe weather experts join Western’s Northern Hail Project

The Northern Hail Project (NHP) will begin researching the frozen thunderstorm-generated phenomenon this summer but work has already started for Western Engineering’s latest severe storm investigation unit with the selection of its leadership team.

Julian Brimelow has been appointed as the first-ever NHP executive director and Simon Eng will serve as its research meteorologist.

NHP is the next step in severe and extreme weather understanding, prediction and mitigation at Western. Fueled by the success of the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP), which was founded in 2017 as a partnership between Western University and ImpactWX, NHP will study the overall impact of damaging hail starting this June in Alberta, eventually expanding in scope to cover all of Canada.

Brimelow is a convective weather expert with 20 years of experience studying severe thunderstorms, hail and high-impact hydrometeorological events. Most recently, he worked to improve the detection and prediction of severe hail using radar systems and computer models as a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada. Previously, Brimelow held posts for the South African Weather Service and the British Antarctic Survey.

“Julian brings so much experience to NHP having studied hail, thunderstorms, flooding and drought in North America, and beyond,” said Gregory Kopp, ImpactWX Research Chair in Severe Storms Engineering and NTP/NHP research lead. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have him join the team.”

A former researcher at Environment and Climate Change Canada and an accomplished private-sector consultant, Eng has a background in both engineering and meteorology, as well as more than 10 years of experience assessing the impacts of weather, climate, and climate change on the “built environment,” namely the human-made homes, buildings, and transportation routes Canadians explore every day.

“Simon has a deep knowledge of storms and their hazards, having conducted numerous detailed climate and severe weather risk assessments for critical infrastructure and municipalities across Canada,” said David Sills, NTP executive director. “He is an excellent, multi-faceted addition to NHP.”

According to NTP partner CatIQ, Canada has experienced more than $2 billion in insured losses due to hail-laden thunderstorms since 2020, mostly in Alberta.

Hail is created when raindrops get caught in a strong updraft of a thunderstorm. The drops are lifted higher and higher into the storm cloud until they freeze and then begin to grow. Eventually, they become too heavy and crash back to Earth, ultimately causing varying degrees of damage.

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