Physicist: Let's Build Huge Anti-Tornado Walls

Ronjia Tao believes three walls could protect the US from disaster
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2014 7:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – With Americans still recovering from last year's tornadoes, one physicist has a plan—to build huge walls that would keep tornadoes from ever forming, the Smithsonian reports. Physicist Ronjia Tao of Temple University says three walls would soften clashing streams of air and prevent tornado formation. Each would be about 1,000 feet high, 150 feet wide, and up to 100 miles long, ranging from North Dakota to Texas, the BBC reports. Tao unveiled the $16 billion plan at a meeting of physicists last week, saying the walls could be "attractively" designed—possibly out of glass.

He says the walls would function like hills in China, which he believes prevent tornadoes—but critics say Tao needs a meteorology lesson. "Meteorologists cringe when they hear about 'clashing hot and cold air,'" says an expert at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. "It's a lot more complicated than that." Warm air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico indeed helps form tornadoes, says one analyst, but preventing that would require barriers 10,000 feet tall—which would drastically alter the entire climate. "So the solution to tornadoes is not trying to get rid of them," he says. "It's better predictions and warnings so people can get out of way. Better homes. Better shelters." (Read more tornado stories.)

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