Temple Physics Professor: Stop Tornadoes by Building Giant Walls

The chair of Temple's physics department says he has a solution to stop tornadoes, though he doesn't think it will be accomplished anytime soon.

Rendering courtesy of Temple University's Dr. Rongjia Tao

Rendering courtesy of Temple University’s Dr. Rongjia Tao

Tornadoes cause untold damage, but they’re considered an unavoidable natural disaster. Well, maybe. Temple physics professor and department chair Rongjia Tao says in a new paper that giant walls could block tornadoes.

In case you didn’t see it in the latest issue of the International Journal of Modern Physics B, Tao argues that giant walls would not just prevent tornadoes in the United States’ tornado alley, it would be cost-effective, too. This is despite the fact that such walls — four of them, he says — would have to be 984 feet high by 164 feet wide. A release about his paper makes a local comparison.

In Philadelphia, there is one skyscraper building, Comcast Center, about 300 meter high. From the cost of Comcast Center, we estimate that to build one mile [of] such wall, we need about $160 million. On the other hand, the damages caused by single tornado attack in Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013 alone were multi billion dollars. Therefore, it seems that the cost for building such a wall is affordable.

The release admits that “we do not expect to start such a huge project in the near future.” But Tao suggests building smaller sections of the walls in Tornado Alley and connect them piece by piece. “To do so locally,” Tao says, “we must remember that from air fluid dynamics, the area protected by the wall is roughly a circle with the wall as its diameter.” Got it.

The reason Tao says this will work? He says that in a location in China that’s similar to the United States’ Tornado Alley, there are few tornadoes dude to mountain ranges that protect the area. Giant walls would therefore be stand-ins for the ranges.

[CityLab | Press Release]