Skip to main content

Scientist constructs 'Great Wall' concept to stop Midwest tornadoes

  • Author:
  • Updated:

A Temple University scientist is drawing national media attention for his new study of a concept designed to thwart the tornadoes that rip through the nation's midsection – a "Great Wall" of the Midwest.

Physics professor Dr. Rongjia Tao has raised eyebrows with his research into how a wall – or walls – might curb tornado activity in Tornado Alley, which stretches from Minnesota to mid-Texas. Specifically, Tao examines how three 1,000-foot-high, east-west walls – one in North Dakota, one on the Kansas-Oklahoma border and one in Texas – might slow twisters.

The study was published in the Bulletin of the American Physical Society. Tao plans to present his findings to members of the group in Denver in March, which is the traditional beginning of a six-month tornado season.

The idea is modeled on Chinese mountain ranges that help curb tornado activity by disrupting north-south air flow, Tao says.

But it's a wacky concept by any measure, critics say, not the least of which would be the cost of the 150-foot thick walls: $60 billion per 100 miles.

Another drawback: It wouldn't work, critics say. They called Tao's theory "nonsense" and the researcher himself "abysmally ignorant" on this topic, USA Today reports.

“Scientifically what he’s proposing, I don’t think is going to have an effect on a big enough scale to mitigate tornado dangers," meteorologist and professional storm chaser Tony Laubach told FOX News. Laubach says the money would be better spent understanding how tornadoes form – and building stronger structures.

The Great Wall theory is another in a list of zany ideas for killing tornadoes proposed over the years, ranging from bombs to airborne lasers, the Weather Channel notes.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-11-30 at 4.04.09 PM

Armed robbery suspect sought in two south metro investigations

The incidents took place at credit unions in Savage and Apple Valley.


Former Twin Cities plastic surgeon charged with sex crimes

Christopher Kovanda is accused of inappropriately touching woman under the guise of providing medical care.

Screen Shot 2022-11-15 at 4.23.26 PM

Minnesota man accused of murder in Chicago is arrested in Alabama

A 26-year-old man from a small town on the Iowa border is accused of murdering a Greyhound bus employee.


Support for Shakopee Public Schools employee diagnosed with cancer

The media specialist has been transitioned to hospice care recently.


Big November snowstorms uncommon in MN, but snowfall is increasing

This week's 8.4 inches at MSP Airport was one of the biggest November storms in the Twin Cities since 1991.


Minnesota nurses take vote on whether to hold second strike

The results will be determined Wednesday night.

unsplash medical marijuana

OCD, irritable bowel syndrome added to MN's medical marijuana list

They are the two latest qualifying medical conditions for Minnesota's marijuana program.

Screen Shot 2022-11-30 at 9.27.45 AM

Fundraiser created for family-owned Cô Tu' Oriental Cuisine after shooting

Support from the community will go towards medical expenses and overhead costs for the restaurant.

Erica Shameka Roberts

Police: Minnesota murder suspect arrested in Texas

Erica Roberts has been on the run since March.


Jackknifed semis close I-35 northbound near Faribault

There are icy conditions across Minnesota

court room

Red Lake man gets 12 years for murder of his cousin

Charges state the man beat the victim with a metal cabinet and its drawers.