In a Blizzard, You Can Watch How Wind Turbines Move the Air

It’s pretty cool to see the patterns turbines create in the wind. But it could also help design better blades.

Super-Large-Scale Flow Visualization with Snow

Unless you're Pocahontas and you can paint with all the colors of the wind, you probably can't actually see it. But in this video, you can—the air patterns created by a wind turbine appear in the snowy air flowing past its giant whirling blades. It looks a little bit like the swirls created in clouds by tall mountains.

Wind farms lose 10 to 20 percent of the energy they could harvest from the air, due in part to complex air currents created by turbines.  Lab tests can't mimic all the vagaries of nature, and aiflow around real turbines—now sometimes reaching heights of more than 300 feet—is difficult to study. 

So researchers at the University of Minnesota thought to study the wind spinning a turbine during a Minnesota blizzard. The idea was to analyze these airflow patterns, which could help create more efficient blades (and, as a bonus, create the mesmerizing video above).

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.