Physicist proposes walls to eliminate tornado threats

Physicist proposes walls to eliminate tornado threats in Tornado Alley

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A physicist at Temple University is proposing a way he says could prevent major tornado threats in Tornado Alley.

Rongjia Tao, Ph.D., has written a paper that proposes building massive walls in the Midwest to prevent tornadoes. He cites last year's tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota and says the walls could prevent the large tornadoes from forming.

The abstract was written on the website for American Physical Society. Tao claims that because there are no mountains in Tornado Alley, there is nothing in place to weaken or block the intensive encounters of cold and warm air.

"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 Tao's abstract.

The walls would need to be about 1,000 feet high and 150 feet wide. The cost would come in at about $60 billion per 100 miles, according to Tao.

Tao will present his research next week at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society in Denver.

Tao's research isn't being welcomed by tornado researchers. In a statement to USAToday, Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory  said "it wouldn't work". Tao cites China, where he says east-west mountain ranges reduce tornadoes. But Brooks said China still has deadly tornadoes, despite the ranges.

"This is essentially a case of a physicist, who may be very good in his sub-discipline, talking about a subject about which he is abysmally ignorant," Brooks said.

FOX 25 Chief Meteorologist Jeff George says the money could be better spent on safety when it hits, not to prevent the storm.

"I'd be willing to support anything that will decrease the number or intensity of tornadoes.  However, because we will never be able to completely squash Mother Nature's power, violent tornadoes will still occur.  That's why I'd rather see the next billion-dollar project focus on sheltering Oklahoma schools before we pursue other scientific endeavors," George said.

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