Skycraper-sized Great Walls of America 'could stop tornados', says physicist

Three barriers 300 metres tall and hundreds of kilometres long would be placed east to west in America's Tornado Valley

A physics professor from the US has put forward a plan to build three skyscraper-sized ‘Great Walls of America’ in order to stop tornados forming.

Professor Rongia Tao of Temple University says that the gigantic barriers would be up to 260 kilometres long, 50 metres thick, and 300 metres tall – the same height as the Shard in London.

Tao claims that the walls could be built from reinforced glass and would work by softening the clashing streams of hot southern and cold northern air that lead to the formation of twisters in Tornado Alley.

This north-south land corridor between the Rocky and Appalachian mountain ranges that covers parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, suffers from a disproportionate amount of twister in the US – already the most tornado-struck country in the world.

“If we build three east-west great walls in the American Midwest, 300m high and 50m wide, one in North Dakota, one along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma to east, and the third one in the south Texas and Louisiana, we will diminish the tornado threats in the Tornado Alley forever,” writes professor Tao in a paper submitted to the American Physical Society.

Tao's proposed walls would be as high as The Shard (pictured) and wouldn't be designed to block the tornados, but stop them developing.

Tao says that the project would cost roughly $60bn (£35bn) per hundred miles and points to geographic regions in China as proof that they would work. Like the US, Chinas has regions of flat plain valleys, but these are broken up by east-west mountain ranges and while the US had 803 tornados last year, China recorded just three.

"We may not have east-west mountain ranges - like the Alps in Europe - we can build walls,” Tao told BBC News. "I spoke to some architects and they said it's possible. It would take a few years to finish the walls but we could build them in stages."

"We've already been doing computer simulations and next we aim to build physical models for testing [in wind tunnels],” he said.

However, various experts from across the meteorological community have said that Tao’s plans are futile and that the conditions that create tornados are far more nuanced than simply clashing air streams.

"This is essentially a case of a physicist, who may be very good in his sub-discipline, talking about a subject about which he is abysmally ignorant," Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory told USA Today.

The destructive path of a Tornado in Illinois

Brooks also pointed out that "If his hypothesis was true, we'd already have the thing he wants to build naturally,” noting that tornados still occur in parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri despite the presence of east-west mountain ranges around the same size as Tao’s proposed walls.

Tornado expert Professor Joshua Wurman of the Center for Sever Weather Research told the BBC "everybody I know is of 100% agreement - this is a poorly conceived idea."

"From what I can gather his concept of how tornadoes form is fundamentally flawed. Meteorologists cringe when they hear about 'clashing hot and cold air'. It's a lot more complicated than that," said Wurman, who also suggested that while a barrier the size of the Alps (2,000-3,000,m high) would work such a project would also cause "a drastic change in climate" - making the cure worse than the disease.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all faied
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Welsh Year 6 Teacher required in Barry

£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Welsh Teacher Year 2 required in Caerphilly

£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Year 4 Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work in ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?