It’s a crazy-sounding idea, but hey: it could work…
In a paper he recently published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B, Tao points to two regions of China, the Northern and Eastern China Plains, that have a similar geographic location as the Midwest—but far fewer tornadoes. The difference, he says, is that China’s plains are surrounded by three east-west mountain ranges, which slow down passing winds enough to prevent tornados from forming.
Tao, then, is essentially suggesting we build mountain range-sized walls across Tornado Alley—a superstructure that he says could end tornado disasters in the region altogether. See, the notoriously windy American region lies right in “the zone of mixing,” with warm, moist air blowing north from the Gulf, and cold air heading southbound. When the winds collide, they can create vortex turbulence, which can spawn major tornadoes.
If there were 1,000 foot tall walls running east-to-west in the region—like the mountain and hill ranges that do so in China—it would theoretically break up that flow, preventing the winds from becoming strong enough to form deadly tornadoes. Tao points out that in 2013, there were 811 tornadoes in the US, most of them in Tornado Alley. In China, there were three.
“In an ideal world,” Tao told me in an email, “we should build three walls in Tornado Alley: 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.”