We can eliminate the major tornado threat in Tornado Alley

Jun 23, 2014
When a strong warm most air flow comes to Tornado Alley, the violent clashes with the cold air flow can extend several states, making tornado outbreaks at several places in a very short period.

The annually recurring devastating tornado attacks in US Tornado Alley raise an important question: Can we eliminate the major tornado threat in Tornado Alley? Some people may claim that such a question is beyond imagination as people are powerless in facing violent tornadoes. However, according to Professor Rongjia Tao's recent publication in IJMPB, human beings are not powerless on this issue: if we build three east-west great walls in Tornado Alley, we will eliminate major tornado threat there forever. These walls can be built locally at high tornado risk areas to eliminate tornado threat there first, then gradually extended.

In the US, most devastating tornadoes occur in Tornado Alley, which is a strip of land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains, including most American Midwest states. In 2013, there were 811 confirmed tornadoes in USA, 57 in Europe and 3 in China. Among 811 tornadoes in USA, most of them, especially the most devastating ones, occurred in Tornado Alley. What causes such huge differences?

From the atmospheric circulation point of view, Tornado Alley is inside the "zone of mixing", where the warm and moist air flows northbound and cold air flows southbound. At a certain season, the warm air flow front clashes with the flow front at some place in Tornado Alley. Major tornadoes in Tornado Alley all start with such clashes (Fig.1). Especially as there is no east-west mountain in Tornado Alley to weaken or block the air flows, some clashes are violent, creating vortex turbulence. Such violent vortexes, supercells, are initially in horizontal spinning motion at the lower atmosphere, then tilt as the air turns to rise in the storm's updraft, creating a component of spin around a vertical axis. If the vortex stretching during the vortex tilting intensifies the vertical vorticity enough to create a tornado, the vortex size is getting much smaller as the rotation speed gets much faster. About 30% of supercells lead to tornadoes (Fig.2).

Calculations show that the chance to produce tornadoes depends on the wind speeds during the clashes. For example, if both cold wind and warm wind have speed 30 miles/h (13.3m/s), the chance to develop tornados from the clash is very high. On the other hand, if the both winds have speed below 15 miles/h, there is almost no chance for the clash to develop into tornadoes. Hence reducing the wind speed and eliminating the violent air mass clashes are the key to prevent tornado formation in Tornado Alley. We can learn from the Nature how to do so.

United States and China have similar geographic locations. In particular, the Northern China Plain and the Eastern China Plain is also in the zone of mixing, similar to Tornado Alley. However, very few violent tornadoes occur in this region of China because there are three east-west mountain ranges to protect these plains from tornado threat. The first one is 300km long Yan Mountain which lies at the northern boundary of these plains. The second one is 600km long Nanling (Nan Mountains) at the south boundary of these plains. The third one is 800kom long Jiang-Huai Hills through the middle of the plains. Especially, Jiang-Huai Hills are only about 300 meters above sea level, but effectively eliminate the major tornado threat for the areas. This is evidenced by the following fact.

Jiang-Huai Hills do not extend to Pacific ocean, leaving a small plain area, north part of Jiangsu province, unprotected. This small area, similar to US Tornado Alley, has annually recurring tornado outbreaks. For example, the city Gaoyou in this area has a nickname "Tornado hometown", which has tornado outbreaks once in two years on average. It is thus clear that Jiang-Huai Hills are extremely effectively in eliminating tornadoes formation. Without Jiang-Huai Hills, a quite big area in China would become "Tornado Hometown"

We can eliminate the major tornado threat in Tornado Alley
The intensive clash between the winds from the south and the winds from the north is the source for formation of tornados in Tornado Alley. (a) Violent clash creates a vortex-supercell. (b) Tilt and updraft creates a spin about a vertical axis leading to mesocyclone. (C) Further stretching and strong vertical vorticity may lead to tornado.

While there are no mountains in Tornado Alley to play the same role as Jiang-Huai Hills etc in China, there are two small mountains, Ozarks Mountains and Shawnee Hills, which significantly reduce tornado risk for some local areas.

Ozark Mountain consists of high and deeply dissected plateaus; the mountain hills are south-north ranged. Most parts of these north-south hills cannot block or weaken air mass flow between north and south. Therefore, for example, Joplin has very high tornado risk as it faces the north-south deeps and valleys formed by these hills, the winds get more strength as they pass these valleys and deeps. On the other hand, some small sections of St. Francois Mountains and Boston Mountains have the hills east-west connected. Therefore, for example, Rolla, Missouri has very low tornado risk, as analyzed by http://www.homefact.com/tornadoes/.

The devastating tornado outbreak in Washington County, IL on November 17, 2013 also reminds us about Shawnee Hills, which is a small mountain, 60 miles east from Washington County. Most Shawnee Hills are along the south - north direction, but some sections are east-west connected, located at the south border of Gallatin County. Therefore, Gallatin County has very low tornado risk, although the most land in Gallatin County is flat farm land, same as Washington county.

According to Dr. Tao, the above information learned from Nature is very encouraging. Although there are no east-west mountains in Tornado Alley, we can build some east-west great walls to play the same role. Also learned from Jiang-Huai Hills and Shawnee Hills, the wall needs about 300 meter high and 50 meter wide.

To eliminate the tornado threat for the entire Tornado Alley, we may need to build three great walls. The first one should be close to the northern boundary of the Tornado Alley, maybe in North Dakota. The second one should be in the middle, maybe in the middle of Oklahoma and going to east. The third one can be in the south of Texas and Louisiana.

Such great walls may affect the weather, but their effect on the weather will be minor, as evidenced by Shawnee Hills in Illinois. In fact, with scientific design, we may also use these walls to improve the local climate.

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 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.

While building the three great walls will eventually eliminate major tornadoes in the entire Tornado Alley, we do not expect to start such a huge project in the near future. On the other hand, it is more realistic to build such great walls locally at high tornado risk areas first, then connect them piece by piece. To do so locally, we must remember that from air fluid dynamics, the area protected by the wall is roughly a circle with the wall as its diameter.

Also in developing any new city in Tornado Alley in future, we may consider to build east-west skyscraper buildings first, then allocate the other parts of the city surrounding the skyscraper buildings. In such a way, the skyscraper buildings will serve as a wall, eliminating major tornado formation in their surroundings to protect the whole city.

Explore further: Magazine reporting below average numbers of tornados in 2013

More information: www.worldscientific.com/doi/ab… 42/S0217979214501756

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User comments : 15

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AJW
3 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2014
While China's more unified government is capable of planning and building as outlined, the USA government is not as unified, and as a result unable to plan and build the suggested walls.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2014
Well, AJW. They don't need to - mother nature did it for 'em...
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 24, 2014
That little cartoon they included to describe tornado formation and the message in the article reminds me of a 'Far Side' and the people who dream this stuff up.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-7JNEV2STubw/TWMt9_x-d5I/AAAAAAAAAGw/oAWLxsiQ-vs/s1600/farside-cartoon.jpg

Job001
1 / 5 (2) Jun 24, 2014
A wall of tall windmills would pay for themselves.
Maggnus
4.4 / 5 (7) Jun 24, 2014
Seriously, is this a joke? No author, stunted diction, poor punctuation - Zephyr are you writing articles now?
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 25, 2014
While China's more unified government is capable of planning and building as outlined, the USA government is not as unified, and as a result unable to plan and build the suggested walls.

Too bad the US is not a communist state, yet, then all sorts of Utopian dreams can be attempted.

A more cost effective solution is to build structures to withstand tornadoes.
A concrete monolithic dome is a good example.
www.monolithic.org

"But the dome is designed to be longer-lasting, more energy efficient and capable of withstanding the strongest of tornadoes and other disasters, The Herald-Times reported (http://bit.ly/1lMsKYs )."
http://www.greenf...ome-Home
FastEddy
3 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2014
"... if we build three east-west great walls in Tornado Alley, we will eliminate major tornado threat there forever. ..."

And permanently screw up the regional climate.

Never in history has increasing taxes changed the weather.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2014
300 meter high and 50 meter wide

That sounds like a pretty major construction.
one mile 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.

Okay, that was an extreme damage event. So for that cost I get 10 miles of wall. And I'm thinking that 10 miles will be a drop in the bucket when we look at the entire wall needed.

build east-west skyscraper buildings first

I think he should be made aware that cities tend to gropw. and that any 'wall' you build first soon ends up somewhere in the center. Just look at the growth of..erm..any city you care to name.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2014
This could easily be accomplished with a fleet of gigantic nuclear-powered earth movers.
https://www.youtu...RT5QFIxs

-Ausgezeichnet!

A few hundred of them should be enough.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2014
After the 2011 tornadoes in Alabama, meteorologists claimed geography did have a role in where tornadoes formed.
A tornado this year followed almost the same track as one in 2011 AL.
Run the data, map most likely locations, and build structures to withstand tornadoes.
This should be more cost effective than a Great Wall boondoggle.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jun 27, 2014
Run the data, map most likely locations, and build structures to withstand tornadoes.
This would include an unreasonable number of structures.
http://www.thebla...one-map/
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2014
Run the data, map most likely locations, and build structures to withstand tornadoes.
This would include an unreasonable number of structures.
http://www.thebla...one-map/

Well then people should stop complaining when they get swept away. I have no sympathy for those who knowingly build (rebuild) in a flood zone, nor for those who build inadequate structures in known tornado zones.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2014
Well then people should stop complaining when they get swept away. I have no sympathy for those who knowingly build (rebuild) in a flood zone, nor for those who build inadequate structures in known tornado zones.


There is a paradox though.

Higher building codes increase home costs, which can lead to people actually not buying a slab home, and instead buying a mobile home. Mobile homes are even more vulnerable, obviously, which produces a threat to life and property which is actually greater, and off-sets much of the gains you get from replacement alone.

I do agree that codes need to be changed to require certain changes. I think in tornado alley new houses should be required to be constructed with something more resilient than wood. Is concrete and re-bar the best thing? Hmm, they probably have fiberglass or carbon fiber in the mix to further increase tensile strength too. Probably, but there may be other materials.

I once advocated underground homes in tornado alley.
Returners
1 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2014
Of course, that's not practical because of floods, you don't want your most valuable possessions in the basement, nor yourselves. So that having been said, a concrete dome, or at least concrete panels does seems like a reasonable code requirement for new home construction.

However, I'd beware of energy cost savings claims. This is a foam panel house, which is allegedly more energy efficient, but it doesn't save nearly as much on energy as was claimed by the manufacturer.

====

Besides all other objections, I could see other problems that might be caused by such a wall:
-Increased straight-line wind events due to a potential channeling effect.
-Increased Drought in the Arklotex region.
-Paradoxically increased updraft along the southern edge of the southern-most wall he suggests in southern Louisiana and Texas, because the insane energy in the hot, moist air coming off the Gulf has to go somewhere anyway. You'd probably be channeling even more tornadoes into Mississippi and Alabama.
hemitite
not rated yet Jun 29, 2014
The walls could be inflatable and so cost much less that solid walls, and they could be deflated when not needed.