The Team

Project Leadership

Gregg Kopp

Greg Kopp

Dr. Greg Kopp is the ImpactWX Chair in Severe Storms Engineering, lead researcher in the Northern Tornadoes Project, and a professor in Western University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He received a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Manitoba in 1989, a MEng from McMaster University in 1991 and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 1995. His expertise and research relate to mitigating damage to structures during extreme wind storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

He works actively to implement research findings into practice, currently serving as Chair of the ASCE 49 Standards Committee on Wind Tunnel Testing For Buildings and other Structures, and as a member of various other Building Code committees. A former Canada Research Chair in Wind Engineering, he is also the lead researcher for the Three Little Pigs Project at The Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes.

David Sills

David Sills

Dr. David Sills is Executive Director of the Northern Tornadoes Project. He received a BSc in Atmospheric Science and Certificate in Meteorology from York University in 1993, as well as a PhD in Atmospheric Science from York University in 1998. He worked for more than 20 years as a severe weather scientist with Environment Canada, conducting research on Canadian tornadoes, severe weather nowcasting and mesoscale meteorology. He was awarded the CMOS Rube Hornstein Medal in Operational Meteorology and the Geoff Howell Citation of Excellence for Innovation.

Dr. Sills is an adjunct professor with both Western’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and University of Manitoba’s Department of Environment & Geography. He serves as Associate Editor for the journals Atmosphere-Ocean and Monthly Weather Review. He is also a member of the ASCE Wind Speed Estimation in Tornadoes Committee charged with updating the EF scale.

Project Partner and Founding Supporter


NTP was founded in 2017 with support from the Toronto-based social impact fund ImpactWX. ImpactWX's mission is "to enable organizations who, through scientific understanding and public awareness, work to improve people's response and safety during severe weather events." This includes the integration of research and practice - for meteorology, engineering and human behavioral science in the NTP context. The support and partnership of ImpactWX has allowed scientific exploration that would otherwise not have been possible.

Academic Partners

John HanesiakJohn Hanesiak 

Dr. John Hanesiak's collaboration with Northern Tornadoes Project provides critical research and meteorological expertise for western Canada. He is a professor in University of Manitoba's Department of Environment and Geography. Dr. Hanesiak received a BSc in Physics and Mathematics from University of Winnipeg in 1990, a Certificate of Meteorology from York University in 1991, a MSc in Atmospheric Science from York University in 1994, and a PhD in Geography from University of Manitoba in 2001. Prior to joining the University of Manitoba in 2001, he was an operational meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Currently, he researches convection processes, severe/extreme weather and climate, storms, and surface-atmosphere interactions. He uses field measurements and numerical modelling to better understand the processes and interactions within these areas. 

Jennifer SpinneyJennifer Spinney

Dr. Jennifer Spinney’s collaboration with NTP provides essential social science research and anthropological expertise. She is an Assistant Professor with York University’s Disaster and Emergency Management Program and focuses her research on social interaction, risk and policy in the context of severe weather hazards and disasters. By drawing on qualitative research methods in her investigations, Spinney seeks to understand how people make meaning, assess and communicate risk, respond to uncertainty, and engage in protective action decision-making during tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. Dr. Spinney received an MA in Sociocultural Anthropology from Western University in 2010 and a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from Western University in 2019. Prior to joining York University in 2020, she was a post-doctoral scholar at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado - Boulder. Currently, Spinney is heading a sub-project for NTP that is centred on advancing the group’s understanding of residents’ social experiences during, and recovery following, the Angus, Ontario (2014) and Dunrobin, Ontario (2018) tornadoes.

Project Staff & Students

Connell MillerConnell Miller

Dr. Connell Miller (PhD '20, Wind Engineering, Western University; BESc [Distinction] '15, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Western University) is a full-time wind impacts researcher with NTP. His main responsibility is researching and implementing new cutting-edge technology for NTP including drones, LiDAR, and streetview cameras. His other responsibilities include managing the undergraduate summer internship program, and taking part in tornado damage surveys. Dr. Miller's current research is focused on alternative methods of estimating wind speeds in tornadoes such as the simulation of debris trajectories of vehicles; as well as alternative methods for detecting tornadoes through remote sensing tools such as vegetation indices and infrasound observations.

Lesley Elliot

Lesley Elliott

Lesley Elliott (BSc [Hons] '04, Atmospheric Science, University of Alberta; MSc '06, Earth and Atmospheric Science, University of Alberta) is NTP's full-time research meteorologist. During tornado season, she can be found routinely checking radar data, satellite imagery and lightning maps, and tornado-related hashtags on social media. She creates most of NTP's tornado outlooks (daily during the peak season from June to August, and as needed during the remaining months) intended to prepare the ground survey team for possible action. Lesley also produces event maps for the team that contain social media reports, radar-based storm tracks, ground survey observations, damage tracks observed with satellite imagery, and flight plans for future high-resolution aerial imagery surveys. "I feel fortunate to be part of a group that is making sure that people are more aware of and better protected from tornadoes in Canada," she says.

Aaron JaffeAaron Jaffe

Aaron Jaffe (BESc [Distinction] '17, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Western University; MESc '20, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Western University) is a full-time wind impacts researcher with NTP and member of the rapid-response ground survey team. His Master's research used model houses, wind tunnels, and computer simulations to predict internal pressures of houses in the midst of tornadoes. His study, one of the most comprehensive in his field so far, is helping engineers and home-builders construct stronger, more resilient houses. "We can't stop tornadoes, but we can better predict their impacts, and design stronger houses to protect against them," he says. Aaron conducts thorough analyses of storm-related wind damage documented by aerial surveys (aircraft or drone) and creates all of NTP's event summary maps.

DylanP-N_new_170.jpgDylan Painchaud-Niemi

NTP's newest staff member, Dylan Painchaud-Niemi (BSc '20, Atmospheric Science, University of Manitoba) is a Research Meteorologist with NTP. He analyzes high-resolution satellite imagery following severe weather events across Canada to detect tree and crop damage caused by tornados and downbursts. Using his meteorological knowledge, he helps create both daily cross-Canada severe storm outlooks as a part of the forecasting team. Dylan also plays a key role collecting post-event severe weather data throughout the Prairies as a member of the Manitoba rapid-response ground survey team. He provides thorough ground and drone surveys with his team following severe weather events. Prior to joining NTP, Dylan was a research assistant at the University of Manitoba and co-authored two research publications examining winter storms on the Prairies and how that will change in the future. 

FLTprofilepic_web.pngFrancis Lavigne-Theriault

Francis Lavigne-Theriault (BA [Hons] '21, Geography and Certificate in GIS & Remote Sensing, York University) has spent more than a decade chasing storms across North America, developing his severe weather forecasting skills, and becoming an expert on communications, social media and in-the-field logistics. In addition to working part-time with the NTP as a bilingual Research Assistant, Francis has embarked on graduate studies at Western Engineering with the newly formed Northern Hail Project (NHP). His Master's degree research focuses on capturing southern Alberta hailswaths with cutting-edge drone technology.

Daniel_Butt_NTP_photo_170.pngDaniel Butt

Daniel Butt (BESc candidate ’24, Computer Engineering, Western University) is a part-time NTP researcher with a strong foundation in machine learning and image processing. His research focuses on building software systems to automate the complex and labour-intensive process of analyzing tornadoes and other severe storms. During his first year with NTP, he developed a model for the large-scale detection and directional analysis of tornado-damaged trees using aerial imagery. More recently, he has been working on automatically assessing the maximum wind velocity of tornadoes from observed treefall patterns using numerical vortex simulations. This work has the potential to increase the EF-scale ratings of many Canadian tornadoes.

Liz SutherlandLiz Sutherland

"Geographic Information Science (GIS) is an incredible data collection tool that helps elevate what engineers do," says Liz Sutherland (BSc [Hons] '16, Geographic Information Science, Western University). As the lead GIS technical specialist for NTP (and Western Libraries Map and Data Centre), she is integral to correctly storing, cataloguing, and maintaining massive amounts of information and data from the Project's aerial, drone, satellite, and ground surveys. NTP's Open Data Site, created by Liz, is a pioneering example of a university-driven open data platform. The portal has helped build bridges between NTP and users of NTP data - including the general public - who can easily explore Canada's tornado data using a single user-friendly website.

StefanoBrusco_170.jpgStefano Brusco

Stefano Brusco (BSc '14, Civil and Environmental Engineering, MSc ’17, Civil and Environmental Engineering, PhD '21, Wind Engineering, University of Genoa) is a Postdoctoral Associate with Western Engineering. His research interests mainly relate to the understanding of the effects induced by the peculiar aspects of tornadic flows on the bluff-body aerodynamics of low-rise buildings. In particular, he takes advantage of the laboratories and the wind tunnels at Western to simulate the action of tornadoes and accelerating flows on instrumented buildings. This work is necessary to clarify the difference between the aerodynamic loading and local effects induced by tornadic winds and non-tornadic atmospheric boundary layer winds, a crucial task to design safer structures and more resilient communities. 

AngelaMejorin_web.jpgAngela Mejorin

Dr. Angela Mejorin holds a dual Ph.D. in Wind Engineering & Architecture for Innovation from Western University (CAN) and Iuav University (ITA) earned in 2022. She also obtained a MEng in Design and Construction of Tall Buildings from Politecnico of Turin (ITA) in 2014, a MESc with Distinction in Construction Engineering from Tor Vergata University (ITA) in 2012, and a BESc in Engineering and Construction Techniques from Tor Vergata University (ITA) in 2010. As a Postdoctoral Associate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Western University, her research focuses on wind engineering and building technology, specifically in the realm of wind-borne debris. Her work aims to advance the understanding of wind-borne debris trajectory estimation and establish performance-based design requirements for façades, particularly in tornado-prone areas where wind-borne debris is a significant contributor to damage costs.

Emilio HongEmilio Hong

"Human impact in the wake of tornadoes and other severe weather events has always affected me," says Emilio Hong (BESc '15, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Western University; MESc '17, Wind Engineering, Western University). "That's why we do what we do - to prevent this from happening again." The PhD scholar and part-time NTP wind impacts researcher is also a member of the ground survey team. Following severe weather events, Emilio helps to analyze images obtained from drone and aerial surveillance and looks for ways to use computer modelling and artificial intelligence to drastically cut down analysis times. The work aims to change how we evaluate tree damage after severe weather events, making the process more accurate and standardizing tree damage evaluation.

Ibrahim IbrahimIbrahim Ibrahim

Ibrahim Ibrahim (BSc '12, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Alexandria University; MESc '17, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Western University) is building maps out of numbers. For his PhD, the former civil engineer is combining and analyzing decades of meteorological data from multiple sources such as radars, satellites, and wind observations. His hope - build a database for a map of North America that estimates downburst frequency anywhere in the continent, and their intensities. Currently, no such map exists. Critically, the comprehensive dataset will help civil engineers understand how downbursts affect buildings. "We have very good records for strong large-scale winds, but there is little data for downbursts," he says. As part of the NTP's ground survey team, Ibrahim will be tracking - you guessed it - downbursts.

FahimJessa_170.jpgFahim Jessa

Fahim Jessa (BESc ‘22, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Western University) is investigating tornado tracks in crops and other low-lying vegetation for his Masters degree work. Many tornadoes occur in Canada’s croplands, making it impossible for them to be classified under the current Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale as it has no Damage Indicator for crops. For his Masters, he is assessing the viability of using remote sensing satellite imagery in the visible and near-infrared spectrum to examine characteristics of tornadic events. “Not knowing the true number or intensity of these tornadoes results in inaccurate tornadic risk assessments for certain areas of Canada,” he says, as the goal of this project is to better understand Canada’s tornado climatology. Fahim is also a member of NTP’s ground survey team. 

Joanne KunkelJoanne Kunkel

Joanne Kunkel (BSc [Hons] '12, Atmospheric Science and Certificate in Meteorology, York University; MSc '16, Atmospheric Science, York University) has used satellite imagery to scan the country, section by section, looking for historical 'forgotten' tornadoes. She's a part-time PhD candidate under Dr. John Hanesiak at the University of Manitoba - conducting research that will improve our understanding of Canadian tornadoes and other severe weather.



Institutional Partners and Collaborators


High Impact Weather Research

The High Impact Weather Research (HIWR) section of ECCC’s Meteorological Research Division conducts research that contributes to understanding, detecting and predicting high-impact weather (HIW) events, and activities that contribute to the application of cloud and precipitation physics to HIW, nowcasting, weather forecasting, climate modelling, weather modification, and remote sensing. This is achieved by innovating observational technologies and techniques, laboratory work, field and aircraft campaigns, and space-based Earth observation. NTP and HIWR will collaborate on remote sensing and in-situ data collection and related severe storm detection and nowcasting algorithms.

Instant WeatherInstant Weather

Instant Weather, Inc. was founded in 2013 with the goal of raising awareness about tornadoes and severe weather. It has since grown to serve more than one million passionate community members across Canada and the US. These members submit a significant number of tornado and wind damage reports, most of which are forwarded to the NTP and ECCC in order to help with alerting and verification. Under this partnership, NTP and IW will collaborate on the development of tornado detection and nowcasting tools.

CatIQ logoCatastrophe Indices and Quantification

CatIQ delivers detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. Through its online subscription-based platform, CatIQ combines comprehensive insured loss and exposure indices and other related information to better serve the needs of the insurance / reinsurance / ILS industries, public sector and other stakeholders. CatIQ was established in 2014 with the support of the overwhelming majority of the Canadian insurance and reinsurance industry and is widely recognized as the most reliable source of catastrophe loss information in Canada.

The Weather NetworkThe Weather Network

NTP's partnership with Canada's The Weather Network (TWN/MM) gives the Project access to TWN/MM's vast collection of severe weather content as well as national reach for NTP's messaging. TWN/MM field reporters also cover a lot of ground across Canada while observing severe convective storms and their effects. In several cases in 2020, TWN/MM field reports provided essential event information that led to more accurate classification and rating. The partnership also makes every TWN/MM audience member a potential citizen scientist in the quest to document every Canadian tornado.