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Professor wants enormous great walls to block tornadoes

Tornado near Moore, OK, in May 2013 Tornado near Moore, OK, in May 2013

Game of Thrones has a 700-foot high wall, and one professor thinks 1000-foot walls are the key to eliminating tornadoes in the Midwest.

Temple University physics professor Rongjia Tao studies Tornado Alley. He is posing the question about whether major tornado threats can be eliminated.

He proposes building three great, enormous walls. The walls would rise 1,000 feet and be 150 feet wide. They would be placed from east to west across Tornado Alley including one along the Kansas and Oklahoma border.

 Tao says because we have no mountains ranging from east to west the storms have room to grow.

"The strong wind changes direction and increases in speed and height," he said. "As a result, it creates a supercell, violent vortex, an invisible horizontal spinning motion in the lower atmosphere. When the air tilts the spinning air from horizontal to vertical, tornadoes with radii of miles are formed and cause tremendous damage."

In addition to the wall south of Wichita, he suggests a wall in North Dakota and a wall in south Texas and Louisiana near the Gulf of Mexico. Doing so, he says, "will diminish the tornado threats in Tornado Alley forever."

David Mechem, assistant atmospheric science professor at the University of Kansas, said Tao is oversimplifying how tornadoes form.

"Tornadoes form well away from these strong boundaries they form often times near dry lines in western parts of the state," Mechem said. "It's gonna be a tough sell. I'm going to need to see some evidence to be convinced."

The evidence will be presented at the American Physical Society's annual meeting in Denver next Wednesday.

David Mechem points out Tao's research will be presented in front of his fellow physicists, and not meteorologists.

"Right now I'm inclined to think it's not something that's practical from a money standpoint or fundamentally, scientifically I don't think it's an idea that will work." Mechem said.

In an email, Tao declined to discuss his findings in great detail.

"Thank you for your interest in my presentation at the American Physical Society Meeting and my research regarding a potential solution for reducing tornados threats in "Tornado Alley." I would love to discuss my research with you," he wrote. "However, the paper, which is the basis for my presentation at APS, is currently under consideration for publication by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. PNAS has requested that I not do public interviews until a publication date is set."

To see the abstract of Tao's findings, click here.

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