Snow is probably the last thing you think of when you think of Florida but on a 90 degree day on the busy Eglin Air Force Base, snow could be made inside the world’s largest climate control facility, the McKinley Climate Laboratory. I took a tour around and got to play in the snow.
The lab was covered with snow and kept at an air temperature of 10 degrees. The day I visited, Goodyear was renting the facility to test tire acceleration in the snow.
“It’s a fourteen inch tiger paw and we’re using that to rate all the development tires that we’re testing,” said Steve Guva, part of the Goodyear tire testing team.
Goodyear comes to back to test here year after year. It is a one stop facility where they can test any winter weather scenario they want, even in the middle of summer. Several cars can drive around the facility at once.
One of the Goodyear drivers for the test had to admit it is pretty cool and unique. “This is an amazing facility. You tell people you’re going to Florida to test in the snow and they’re like ‘No, you can’t do that.’ And we’re like, ‘We can and we do.’ This is a great facility.”
But of course it takes a lot of work to make the lab 80 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature like it was the day I was there. The control room is where the engineers monitor three large air conditioning units around the clock.
The McKinley Climate Lab can reach temperatures colder than sixty degrees below zero. The lab can be heated to more than one hundred and twenty degrees and also does wind, rain, and solar testing.