Physicist suggests putting up walls against tornadoes

There have been many imaginative ideas about how to stop tornado destruction in the U.S., particularly in the area known as Tornado Alley where they are ubiquitous. Change the wind direction? Missiles? Bombs? Ice? How about walls?

Can giant walls protect the USA from tornadoes?

One scientist thinks we can protect parts of the central USA from ferocious tornadoes by building several gigantic walls across Tornado Alley:

“If we build three east-west great walls in the American Midwest …. one in North Dakota, one along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma to the east, and the third one in south Texas and Louisiana, we will diminish the tornado threats in the Tornado Alley forever,” according to physicist Rongjia Tao of Temple University.

The walls would stop the flow of air from north and south, thus preventing the tornadoes from forming, he said. As an example he cites China, where east-west mountain ranges help reduce tornadoes there.

Naysayers abound. Aside from the cost of $60 billion per 100 miles (according to Tao’s estimates) and huge engineering challenges, “it wouldn’t work,” tornado researcher Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said in an e-mail.

Brooks thinks the physicist has ventured out of his realm of expertise. Weather doesn’t work like standard physics. Others also call the idea nonsense and implausible. We could also call these walls “mountains”. While, yes, the Plains are flat and lack of mountains encourage tornadoes and their travel, places with mountains also have tornadoes. This idea is silly. Such funds would be better spent on safety for structures and preparedness.


  7 comments for “Physicist suggests putting up walls against tornadoes

  1. Jim1950a
    February 26, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    How would the proposed walls affect wind farms?

  2. Nos482
    February 27, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    My completely unprofessional opinion…after all I’m neither meteorologist nor achitect… start building underground cities.
    From what I read tornadoes are going to get stronger (and more frequent) over the next years (decades?) thanks to climate change, so why rebuild each and every year when one could simply go where the winds don’t reach?
    Are there actually good reasons why this wasn’t tried so far?

  3. Sindigo
    February 27, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    Does the view count as a good reason?

    I don’t mean the TV show. I’d bury that underground in a second.

  4. busterggi
    February 27, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    I thought tornados were caused by more localized conditions but let’s say he’s right – has he said what major disruptions his giant walls will cause to continent wide, possibly world wide, weather patterns?

  5. Joni
    February 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    The atmospheric activity that starts the whole process starts many thousands of feet above the ground….. them’s gonna some tall honkin’ walls!


  6. KR
    February 27, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    I like loony propositions such as this. Also nukexcavating a channel to Qattara depression or even Atlantropa. They may be totally unfeasible and crazy, but strangely arousing.

  7. RandyRandy
    February 28, 2014 at 6:35 AM

    Salt. Scatter salt crystals above tornado formations. That might work.

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