Feeds

back to article Physicist proposes 1,000-foot state-sized walls to stop tornadoes

Do you fear extreme weather events as climate change increasingly roils our atmosphere? Chill, Cassandra; a US physicist has a plan for preventing devastating tornadoes in the American midwest: build a series of Brobdingnagian 300-metre-high walls to enclose Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley map Fear not, Reg readers, San …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Anonymous Coward

If we are going to build a wall

Lets build one about 50 ft high at our southern border

7
19
Bronze badge

Re: If we are going to build a wall

Lets build one about 50 ft high at our southern border

A noble sentiment, but it's still not going to stop people from the US entering Canada.

50
1
Silver badge

Re: If we are going to build a wall

> 2014

> Pretending that the US has not yet transformed its southern border into a ghetto killzone

4
1
Bronze badge

Re: If we are going to build a wall

Who is going to do the work?

4
0

Re: If we are going to build a wall

"Who is going to do the work?"

How about the unemployed? This could be the new Hoover Dam.

2
0
Silver badge

Re Who is going to do the work?

Illegal immigrants from Mexico.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: If we are going to build a wall

No, build two spaced about 100 feet apart and write "wall #2 of 50" on the second wall. Anyone getting over the first wall will decide that it ain't worth the effort to do it 49 more times.

1
0
Meh

Life imitating art

Someone's been watching too much "Game of Thrones"

10
0
Bronze badge
WTF?

Re: Life imitating art

Yep, sounds like a Tao-nado to me....

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Being American..

I'm surprised he did not suggest dropping a bomb on the tornado.. surely that would do the trick!

4
3

Re: Being American..

Bombing a tornado will only work if it is also a tornado full of sharks. One might even call it… a sharknado.

But not government bombs, they have to be improvised like you would in a video game and not a terrorist because that is cooler. And dropped from a helicopter, but not just any copter, it has to be commandeered, but in a legit way because we have to or no one else will.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Being American..

Bombs are for insecure politicians, idiots and religious extremists. Furthermore, bombs are the French cowards way to fight weather events. Any American worth their powder knows bullets are the only way to stop tornados. Shoot them fuckers full of holes and leave 'em laying in the fields so their buddies know what's coming to them if they don't turn back.

In all seriousness, it sounds like the fella that published this may not have actually seen much in the way of post tornado footage before the EPA began targeting the poor with the automotive tire disposal fee scheme that went into effect in the late 1990's.

The way things work now, when you buy new tires there is a fee ($4.00 per tire I believe) for disposing of the old tires. Most places charge you the fee even if you want to keep your old tires, so people tend to let them take the old tires so they don't feel like the tire place is getting $16 for nothng. But before the tire fee it was common for people, especially the poor, to keep their old tires, in case they ever needed them again. The EPA knew this, and they knew what the old tires really provided, thus the old tires had to go if they wanted to succeed in ridding the country of the poor.

The EPA knew that old tires provided tornado protection to people who live in the mobile home communities (trailer parks). Think I'm bullshitting? Go look at pre-1997 aerial footage of tornado stricken trailer parks. The only ones left on their wheels always have at least one old tire on the roof. ALWAYS! Nobody really knows how the poor people worked out that putting a old tire on the roof of their trailer provided tornado protection. The calculations were assumed to be beyond the means of the poor. It doesn't really matter anyway. Now that the EPA has effectively put tornado invincibility beyond the means of the poor by eliminating used tires the poor are expected to eventually disappear as their habitats are destroyed.

10
2
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Being American..

Why not just bomb the ground. Then the tornado (and any sharks) will fall into the hole and get stuck in it.

We'd need a lot of large bombs. Maybe a string of nukes all the way across the US, just to make sure the tornado's didn't go around...

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Being American..

"Bombing a tornado will only work if it is also a tornado full of sharks. One might even call it… a sharknado."

But what if those sharks have lasers?

4
0
Go

Re: Being American..

Why, thank you, Don Jefe. Your post was deliciously insane, and like all true masters of the craft, I cannot tell whether you are serious or not.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Being American..

"Furthermore, bombs are the French cowards way to fight weather events"

Or anti-nuclear protesters.

1
0

But how long? Building a wall the same height as the comcast tower may be simple if it is also the same width as the comcast tower, start building a wall multiple miles long and I'm sure complexities start to happen (roads, wildlife and existing buildings for a start).

The maths on a "mere" $160 million per mill also don't stack up particularly well, just 10 miles is 1.6 billion, three 33.3 mile stretches are 16 billion, (see comparison to costs of tornadoes here http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/damage$.htm).

Perhaps if they built more houses out of bricks not sticks then the hurricanes wouldn't blow them all down? This is likely to be far far cheaper and have many health and other positive benefits to the poor in those areas as well!

9
1
Silver badge

No bricks will survive category 5

No bricks will survive above category 3 tornado.

The only thing that may stand a chance is something half-dug into the ground, with nice aerodynamic shape and some tank grade armour plating to go over all doors and windows when things get ugly. Effectively "a nuclear shelter of a house". This will cost ~4-5 times more than current construction sans the armour cover for the windows and doors (just the dug-in concrete shell). With the windows and doors you are looking at 10x times or more. I do not see anyone starting to build any of these any time soon.

3
3

Re: No bricks will survive category 5

He wants to construct walls not buildings nor houses.

But even a wall would be too tiny. And why just a wall ?

The cheapest thing to do would be creating giant artificial mountains. That's it. Giving those a structure similar to existing mountains, using hard rocks and metals.

Mountains don't get crushed by tornadoes. Constructing artificial giant mountains even harder than the existing natural ones wouldn't be as expensive as constructing long tiny walls with a given shape.

A mountain can have bad shapes but as long as its density it's very high it would do the job perfectly against any tornadoes and wouldn't break down. Only a volcano appearing and erupting where such artificial mountains would be built could then cause such huge things to get destroyed.

0
2
Coat

Re: No bricks will survive category 5

"The cheapest thing to do would be creating giant artificial mountains."

You mean such as the 1000ft high walls originally proposed? Read much?

5
1

Re: No bricks will survive category 5

It didn't work in Pacific Rim either! A category 5 kaiju won't be bothered by such a wall.

...

What? Isn't that what we're talking about?

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re 1000ft high walls

A 1000 ft hill is not a mountain.

Anonymous because I too like holidaying in the Lake District.

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: Re 1000ft high walls

The wall will not survive a tornado, but it's not supposed to is it? I thought the point was that having walls in the right places will prevent the tornado from starting in the first place? As for bricks, I doubt they'd use bricks for the wall, they'd use concrete, like a dam. Bricks only came into the discussion because someone above said about building houses with bricks instead of sticks. Do try to keep up old chum.

4
0

If you built them around the edges, instead of in the middle, I'm sure RoW would be only to willing to lend a helping hand . Hell, I'd even chuck in a few quid myself.

0
0
Silver badge

For what it's worth, the bricks themselves would fair rather well. It's the mortar that'll fail, and some bricks will certainly be crushed by other bricks, but they won't be rent asunder by the tornado.

2
0
Bronze badge

According to other boffins, won't work

I saw the response to this from other scientists who actually study meteorology and climate. For some reason, the low mountains in the exact area these walls are proposed aren't doing anything to even slow down the formation of tornadoes.

However, if it were proposed to build a sculpture the same size, I bet it could get funding.

5
0

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

Those so called scientists are telling lies then. Because in other countries where there are huge mountains there are no tornadoes like there in the US. Those mountains surely do "their job" tornadoes wise.

0
7

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

What other weather impact would these mountains have? It's easy enough for a physicist to blindly suggest an artificial mountain, but it's another thing entirely to introduce a climate-changing monstrosity that will undoubtedly have other effects. Those other effects need study before just making such a suggestion.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: According to other boffins, won't work, other effects.

Well for one, you would get a rather serious change in local precipitation since , if effective, the walls will prevent the mixing of the air masses altogether with rather profound results. And very likely: very profound results that will disrupt and damage the local environment more than the tornadoes cruising through at the moment.

I'd love to see a precipitation model based on blockage like that. I bet a beer there will be some more dustbowls in sight soon.

10
0
Silver badge

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

The mountains here in the US are pretty fucking big man. So are the Great Plains where this guy wants to build walls. The Plains cover about 1,300,000km2 which is more than large enough for massive weather systems to develop and play out especially considering it's all low altitude land that's as flat as a tabletop.

Although it is very interesting, and the backstory has just got to be fucking fantastic, mixing xenophobia and geography is not a well understood science. There no evidence to suggest that mountains express a labor preference based on either location or culture. As we currently understand them, mountains express very little in the way of emotion or bias and seem generally satisfied with their surroundings once they've established themselves. If they are unsatisfied they have failed to communicate that or moved away in search of fulfillment. You can't help those who won't help themselves.

The more well understood science part behind your observation is rather simple. None of the other places with big mountains have those mountains bordered by several thousand miles of ocean on one side and thousands of miles of low elevation flatland on the other. The sheer scale of North America, combined with its geography creates a really weird situation that's unique to this planet.

Keep working with Xenophobic Geography though. There's a lot of potential there I believe. If you can really get it all laid out well I bet there's a way you can sue the States that have big mountains and claim emotional distress caused via excommunicative bias.

7
1
Silver badge

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

"None of the other places with big mountains have those mountains bordered by several thousand miles of ocean on one side and thousands of miles of low elevation flatland on the other."

Er... South America? Australia?

2
1
Silver badge

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

@Don Jefe

"The sheer scale of North America, combined with its geography creates a really weird situation that's unique to this planet."

I've heard of US exceptionalism but that's taking it to extremes isn't it?

On a serious note, I find it somewhat hard to believe that creating what is essentially an artificial windbreak will not have some repercussions beyond the desired "stop tornadoes".

Climate is a complex thing and difficult to predict. You can see that by how skeptical many are about global warming as they tie it up with climate change. An increase in heat energy trapped by the earth's atmosphere is an input into the climate system - the confusion is around how exactly that will manifest so far as climate changes go.

Given the rather stark contrast between one side of the Andes (the Atacama) and the other (the Amazon), it's pretty evident that the blocking and diversion of winds (which carry moisture) can have some pretty big effect.

The proposed walls are nowhere near the scale of the Andes but to think they wouldn't have a noticeable effect all the same is a bit optimistic, I'd say!

3
0
Silver badge

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

I'm sure some mini mountains would fuck up weather patterns. The big man made lakes here drastically altered the weather within my lifetime. Make something big enough and of course it'll have an impact on weather.

I fail to see what that has to do with the unique geography of North America however. There are precisely zero other places with geography remotely close to that of North America and there sure as fuck isn't a vaguely close second in South America. That's not 'American Exceptionalism' talking, that's literacy and experience.

There's very little big geography between the Andes and the Atlantic Ocean. Certainly not a second set of mountains to trap all the weather. To the west of the Andes you've got the driest place on Earth. Australia is the closest, but it's not really comparable. If you look closely, you'll see that Australia is surrounded by water and has what is effectively the worlds largest wind machine to the south. There is no corollary here.

'American Exceptionalism' is stupid and it's embarrassing. But you're foolish if you think there aren't some unique features here. The entire continent is chock full of geographic oddities and the result is, among other things, really weird weather. It doesn't make this part of the world better, or anything of the sort, but it does make it unique.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

"The sheer scale of North America, combined with its geography creates a really weird situation that's unique to this planet."

: )

0
0

Re: According to other boffins, won't work

Frank Zappa - "Billy the Mountain" from 1972's 'Just Another band from L.A.' wherein Billy the Mountain, along with his wife Ethel (a tree growing off his shoulder) decide to leave California for a long-overdue vacation in NYC by way of Las Vegas.

Oddly enough, as they set off on their journey, Billy's mountain-scale footsteps render the earth and accidentally set off old Cold War-era germ & poison-gas bombs stored underground at Edwards Air Force Base in Glendale, CA with the now-airborne contaminants swirling back over the Watts neighbourhood of L.A. (in 1972 fresh from the Watts Riots) courtesy of a freak TORNADO!!

0
0
Childcatcher

Wall O Trash

Landfills getting a bit full? Built a mountain of trash! It's a readily available building material and solves our landfill problems!

1
2

Re: Wall O Trash

...And if it does get hit by 100 km/h winds and scatters "building material" all over four states, that's all somebody else's problem.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Wall O Trash

The Mount Trashmore park in Virginia Beach, VA did build a mountain out of trash. There's a theater, skate park, ballparks and more. It may not be the best solution, but repurposing mountains of trash has precedent.

1
0

Win Win

Cover them with solar panels and put windmills on top. They'll pay for themselves.

1
0
FAIL

Re: Win Win

Just build 1000 ft wind turbines instead of walls to actually capture the energy. Walls may stop the tornadoes, but I bet that the unintended consequences will be just as unpleasant. Ahem, I'm sure there will be unintended consequences from wind turbines too, but at least they'll be low energy consequences.

I have to ask, why do people continue to live in 'Tornado Alley'? I can understand why people stay in Bangladesh, despite the flooding, but there's a vast amount of tornado free land in the USA!

0
0

Re: Win Win

"there's a vast amount of tornado free land in the USA!"

Did you even look at that map? Much less than half of US is tornado-free (or at least tornado-watch free). And most of that is desert and mountains.

5
0
Bronze badge

Re: Win Win

At least wind turbines wouldn't block out the sunlight. And birds would have the option to fly under them.

As to why people live there - people live everywhere, it's what we as a species do. It's called population growth.

0
0

Re: Win Win

Why do people live in Tornado Alley?

Off hand, I'd guess that a lot of them are involved in the total economic systems that have grown up around providing 7% of WORLD wheat production, and who knows how much other grain, meat, and dairy products. Not to mention a very large amount of oil production as well. Consider that the two biggest oil-producting states are the North and South borders of said alley.

4
0
Bronze badge

We need a bigger shovel

One kilometre linear of these 'mountains' would need 15 cubic kilometres of material to construct, that means either a large hole somewhere or a smaller mountain. Tens of kilometres long walls will mean much bigger holes or much smaller mountains and quite a lot of trucks and fuel to move all that material, it may be doable but it may also be be ecologically and economically more beneficial in the long run to not bother.

Has this guy made any study of potential side effects from a project like this? Effects on weather patterns in general etc?

Sounds like someone desperatley looking for an original paper to publish.

4
2
Silver badge

Re: We need a bigger shovel

A real physicist would have proposed a time machine and a system for changing the Earth's tectonic plates.

Go back a hundred million years or so, move things around a bit, and you have all the mountains you want.

3
0
DJO
Bronze badge

Re: We need a bigger shovel

No, there may be slight technical difficulties with the time machine bit, the trick would be to drill down, you're bound to hit high pressure magma eventually, as soon as you hit magma run away (very fast) and then wait for a while, perhaps do a bit of guiding the lava with fire-hoses possibly even squirting liquid nitrogen for rapid cooling. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

1
0
Silver badge

Re: We need a bigger shovel

One kilometre linear of these 'mountains' would need 15 cubic kilometres of material to construct

Would you like to have another look at the back of your envelope? Even if the wall is 1km high (it's only 0.3km high) and 1km wide (it's only 0.05km wide), each 1km length would require exactly 1 cubic km of material, assuming it has solid construction. It's impossible to cram 15 times that amount into a much smaller structure!

My envelope says that for each 1km of wall which is 300m high and 50m wide and has a void inside* (50% of cross-section) we'd need 0.0075 cubic km of material.

*the article doesn't mention a void, but I think it makes sense to have one.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: We need a bigger shovel

@Martin

Dirt doesn't work like that. You'd end up with a big speed bump, not a small mountain. It's not a perfect analogy, but you can think of dirt like those S-shaped packing peanuts but made of hydroscopic material that's reasonably dense.

Unlike packing peanuts that are engineered to occupy as much space as possible, dirt wants to be packed in tightly with other dirt. Left alone, dirt will compact itself to a surprising degree. Its hydroscopic nature works as sort of a pump where the wet dirt expands then contracts as evaporation and gravity remove the water. As it contracts gravity pushes the individual bits into the voids that appear, effectively at random.

That's a big part of the reason you don't see dirt hauled by rail very often and why dump trucks for hauling dirt are limited in size. A regular big dump truck holds about 3 cubic yards of dirt but if you haul it a long way or encounter serious rain on the trip you can pretty quickly end up with a 1 cubic yard brick that's stuck in the bed.

That's a very simple mechanical compression technique that's still randomized. If you get serious with it and start refining the soil and shaping it for maximum density you can exceed 20x compression without getting too exotic. Whether or not it's financially effective to process enough soil to build small mountains with is another story, but there's no doubt it'll take several times more dirt than is necessary form the shape to actually build them if you want them to stay that size.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: We need a bigger shovel

@Don Jefe

Who said anything about dirt? "Material" could be pretty much anything: concrete, stone blocks, steel, wood, glass, plastic, diamond, whatever. I admit that a couple of those materials might not be very cheap/practical, but the point was about the required (solid) volume.

0
0

So, for a fraction of the homeland security budget they can get rid of tornadoes? Sounds like a win-win.

1
1

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.