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Can a Wall Stop a Tornado?

I’ve never witnessed a tornado but I’ve seen the destruction they can cause in news reports and in “The Wizard of Oz” and “Sharknado,” so I’m interested in anything that can keep them and their killer winds, flying fish and phony wizards away from my house. Physicist Rongjia Tao of Temple University claims he has an odd but viable solution: 1000-foot-high walls in strategic windy locations like the tornado alleys of the American Midwest.

A conceptualization of Tao's tornado wall

A conceptualization of Tao’s tornado wall

Tao presented this idea at a recent meeting of the American Physical Society. While not a meteorologist, it sounds like he knows tornadoes.

“The strong wind changes direction and increases in speed and height. As a result, it creates a supercell, violent vortex, an invisible horizontal spinning motion in the lower atmosphere. When the air tilts the spinning air from horizontal to vertical, tornadoes with radii of miles are formed and cause tremendous damage.”

He believes his wall idea will work based on observations of east-west mountain ranges in China that seem to protect nearby areas from tornadoes. Tao claims the lack of east-west mountains in the U.S. is the problem and that the same thing can be accomplished with man-made structures that would not block the tornadoes but diminish the winds that cause them.

“If we build three east-west great walls, one in North Dakota, one along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma, and the third in the south in Texas and Louisiana, we will diminish the threats in Tornado Alley forever.”

With all due respect to the actual Great Wall, this idea seems walleyed to actual meteorologists who point out that China has a lot of tornado-prone areas that are also near east-west mountains. Tao says he can’t respond to this since his paper is currently under consideration for publication.

Or perhaps he’s getting ready to launch a Kickstarter project to fund his OWN wall!


Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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