Aug 17, 2014 I Tom Head

Are Sharknados Possible?

The Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week is about to wrap up, but this year it had to compete with the more openly ridiculous shark-themed publicity surrounding SyFy’s Sharknado 2: The Second One, an epic story of flying sharks versus chainsaws.

But is it possible that we could one day face down a giant tornado full of great white sharks? Phillip Schewe of the American Institute of Physics breaks it down for MTV. The bottom line: there’s no plausible way you would get eaten by a flying shark, but you might get squashed by one.

Even supposing (a big supposition) that a million sharks were to be thrown into downtown Manhattan and not be crushed by the dropping, then the first thing they will do is not look to eat, but to breathe. They will all suffocate in a few minutes and would be writhing around – after all, they’re fish out of water.

The hard part is getting a great white shark into a tornado in the first place. There’s no doubt that a land-based tornado is powerful enough to pick up sharks—tornados throw around much heavier things on a regular basis.


But the reason a sharknado wouldn’t work in the real world is because the filmmakers have merged the function of sea-based tornados called waterspouts, which can certainly carry around large amounts of water containing millions of small fish or frogs and rain them down over a city, and land-based tornados, which can carry much heavier things because they aren’t also carrying water. In order to carry around enough water to throw a large number of live sharks into a city, a tornado would have to be so unimaginably powerful that the sharks would be the least of your problems.

But there's at least one scenario where a sharknado could work: if the sharks are already beached, a tornado could hypothetically pick up the carcasses and throw them into a nearby city with considerable force. It’d make for a really gross (and short) movie, but it would technically be a real-life sharknado—or close enough, at any rate. And it wouldn't be much more ridiculous than the idea of killer sharks already is.

Tom Head

Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.

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