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A Physicist Says He Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest With 1,000-Foot Walls 501

meghan elizabeth writes: Temple physicist Rongjia Tao has a utopian proposal to build three massive, 1,000-foot-high, 165-foot-thick walls around the American Midwest, in order to keep the tornadoes out. Building three unfathomably massive anti-tornado walls would count as the infrastructure project of the decade, if not the century. It would be also be exceedingly expensive. "Building such walls is feasible," Tao says. "They are much easier than constructing a skyscraper. For example, in Philadelphia, the newly completed Comcast building has about 300-meter height. The wall with similar height as the Comcast building should be much easier to be constructed." Update: 06/28 04:14 GMT by T : Note: originally, this story said that Tao was at Drexel rather than Temple -- now corrected
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A Physicist Says He Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest With 1,000-Foot Walls

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  • Re: better idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @09:55PM (#47320915) Journal
    A wall such as the one proposed would act as a mountain range diverting prevailing winds upwards, this is the very reason "tornado alley" exists in the first place, the storm cells are the physical manifestation of turbulence created by mountains. If you want to keep tornados out with a wall, the wall will need to rise above the troposphere, ie: the cruising altitude of a passenger jet (~5 miles). And even then, you would get atmospheric currents rising into the stratosphere that resembled the equatorial Hadley cells, which are responsible for both monsoons and the sub tropical desert zones.

    This physicist obviously hasn't thought this through and is looking only at the height of the tornado, however as a thought experiment it's truly worthy of a full xkcd "what if" analysis.
  • Re:Appalachians (Score:4, Interesting)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @10:48PM (#47321209) Journal

    OK, we should all read this []

    My big take-away is that the altitude makes all the difference. The "barrier" effect is less apparent.

    So. If the guy builds a wall, he'll take away Sunlight nearby. Maybe there could be some effect due to the local average altitude being higher; but a puny little wall or even a small mountain range vs. the entire continental pattern? Even if we could alter the climate of a continent... I thought climate change was bad.

  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:07PM (#47321325)

    You actually believe that such a fence would keep people out?


    Great Wall of China... Mongols. I rest my case.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:54PM (#47321543) Homepage

    I always thought the best method was to create inverted solar heated funnels with built in wind turbines at ground level and at the outlet, to basically create safety valves to enable hot air at ground level to continually vent to upper atmosphere and as a bonus provide energy to pay for the system. This to prevent the destructive funnel that would otherwise occur. You would need to space them so as to substantially reduce the risk of the natural funnel forming. You could also use them as communication towers, wireless and microwave broadband and mobile phones. As an additional bonus dependent upon region they can also collect water via direct rainfall as well as condensation.

    So rather than just attempting to solve one problem badly. A little out of the box thinking and funnel, 'heh' 'heh', many problems into one solution and achieve a far higher level of cost efficiency.

  • Re:Climate effect? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plopez ( 54068 ) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @12:18AM (#47321629) Journal

    The entire point of the wall is to change the climate by preventing moist gulf air and cold air from the north from mixing. The change to the rainfall regime would probably create an even larger desert than already exists in the area. If you do not believe me look at the current climate of northern China he cites. That is what will be created.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger