Could These Giant Walls Stop Tornadoes In Their Tracks?

Could These Giant Walls Stop Tornadoes In Their Tracks?

Physicist's Rongjia Tao has put forward a proposal that could stop wide-spread damage from natural disasters.

Serena Chu
  • 28 february 2014

Physicist Rongjia Tao believes building 1,000-foot-high walls in the American Midwest could protect the region from tornados. Though the idea may seem somewhat far-fetched, it actually holds scientific value. Because Tornado Alley is mostly grassland and plains, there are no mountain ranges to prevent the collision of warm air flow from the north and the cold air flow from the south, which is what generates turbulence and supercells that spawn tornadoes. So by placing these man-made structures in the eye of the storm, the entire area, which runs from the Dakotas to Texas, would experience fewer tornado threats.

Some researchers like Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., have raised objections, mainly in regards to the hefty costs of building such a wall, which is expected to cost $60 billion per 100 miles. Brooks also pointed to the Chinese east-west mountain ranges as an example, arguing that tornadoes in the region are just as deadly despite the natural disruption in air flow.


Meteorologist Mike Smith of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions has called Tao’s theory “nonsense,” and wrote on his blog, “that is misleading at best, especially since most of the violent Plains thunderstorms occur along a ‘dry line’ where there is a relatively small temperature difference.”

Whether or not the theory demonstrates a worthy cause  at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society in Denver next week, Tao’s proposal brings up an interesting way to prevent potential natural disasters.

Source: USA Today

Images: Justin Hobson, KOCO


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