Coffer's work hasn't been put through a peer review yet, but he recently submitted it to the Electronic Journal of Severe Storms and Meteorology.
Despite advances in engineering and scientists' understanding of tornadoes, humans are still largely powerless against the threat of these natural disasters. One only needs to look at recent history for proof. The National Weather Service ranked 2011 the fourth deadliest year for tornadoes on record, with 550 deaths and 1,691 tornadoes reported across the country, including the catastrophic storm that hit Joplin, Missouri.
Tao, whose work was in part funded by a grant from the U.S. Naval Research Lab, said he hopes to do a field test with a small wall protecting a localized, high-risk area to prove his idea is feasible.
"Once this field test is successful, people will accept the idea, and the wall will be gradually extended to eliminate the major tornado threat for the entire Tornado Alley," Tao told Live Science in an email. He added that he welcomes comments of skeptics and hopes that his proposal will at least spur more research into tornado-stopping plans.
Tao isn't the first to come up with a tornado-blocking concept, and experts think there are more theoretically plausible options than physical walls. One possibility might be to kill tornadoes by freezing them.
"If you have a bad storm approaching and you could suddenly make the downdrafts of the storm really cold, it would probably have a disruptive effect," Markowski said.
Markowski doesn't expect to see something like that happen in his lifetime. Fast forward 1,000 years, however, and perhaps engineers will have the technology to make a giant refrigerator to cool a whole town by several degrees just before a tornado barrels in, he said.
But who knows what the future will hold? Just a few years ago, an inventor was awarded a patent for a scheme to send suicide drones into a tornado with an ultra-cold substance such as liquid nitrogen to thwart the storm.
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