We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot Walls

Beyond the boundaries of established science an avalanche of exotic ideas compete for our attention. Experts tell us that these ideas should not be permitted to take up the time of working scientists, and for the most part they are surely correct. But what about the gems in the rubble pile? By what ground-rules might we bring extraordinary new possibilities to light?

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We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot Walls

Unread postby Chromium6 » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:44 pm

A Physicist Says We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot Walls
Written by
Brian Merchant
@bcmerchant brian.merchant@vice.com
June 25, 2014 // 03:10 PM EST
Image: Wikimedia

I was born in Tornado Alley, and one of my earliest memories is camping out in our basement during a storm warning, watching the Wizard of Oz, of all things, and quietly waiting for a twister to tear through the roof. It never did, but that dread is still palpable. When you live in the Midwest during tornado season, the air always seems a little pregnant with disaster.

As such, I can empathize with University of Drexel physicist Rongjia Tao's utopian proposal to build three massive, 1,000-foot high, 165-foot thick walls around the American Midwest, in order to keep the tornadoes out. In a rendering of the anti-tornado wall Tao sent me, it looks like this:
No, I don't know what the picture of the boat means, either.

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."

"Building the three great walls will eventually eliminate major tornadoes in the entire Tornado Alley."


Building three unfathomably massive anti-tornado walls would count as the infrastructure project of the decade, if not the century. It would be also be exceedingly expensive, and right now we can barely manage upkeep on the bridges and highways we've already got. The Atlantic's John Metcalfe, who says "It's maybe not such a dumb idea," also notes that the "price and labor of erecting these super-walls would be so monstrous that Tao had better be conducting a second study about it right now."

So is Tao serious? Absolutely. "Building such walls are feasible," he said. "They are much easier than constructing a skyscraper. For example, in Philadelphia, the newly completed Comcast building has about 300 meter height. The wall with similar height as the Comcast building should be much easier to be constructed."

He believes that once they're built, they would all but put an end to tornado fatalities.

"In 2011, 553 people perished due to tornadoes," he said, and "most of them were in Joplin, MO. Tornadoes in USA killed 68 people in 2012 and 53 in 2013. Most of these fatalities were in Tornado Alley. If there were such walls, almost all of them could be saved. Especially, with the walls, we could eliminate tornado disasters." He also points out that tornadoes cost billions and billions of dollars, and the walls could eventually save the country money.

Although he firmly believes in the project, Tao recognizes that it's a long shot. "While building the three great walls will eventually eliminate major tornadoes in the entire Tornado Alley, it is unrealistic to expect such huge project to start in near future because of the costs and other factors," he said.

But he also points out that there are small parts of the region already sheltered from tornadoes, by the Ozark mountains. So there's no reason we can't start small, and expand, he says. "On the other hand, it is more realistic to build such walls locally at high tornado risk areas, such Joplin, then extend and connect the walls."

Those may never get built, either, but I'm still glad thinkers like Tao are going big—it's rare that a professor steps forward with the moonshot chutzpah to announce that he can make tornadoes extinct in America. Plus, his proposal may inspire other physicists to follow-up, and uncover cheaper, more pragmatic tornado-killers. Even if we never see mountainous cyclone barricades lining the Midwest, at least we know an engineering solution may someday be possible.

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/a-phys ... he-midwest
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby CharlesChandler » Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:34 pm

Ummm... here's a thought... since the principles of fluid dynamics are scalable, why doesn't he do a scale model of his hypothesis, to see if little tornadoes do not form once he puts up little walls? Oh that's right, nobody has ever reproduced a tornadic flow field in the laboratory, so he'd have to do that first. It's easy to create a vortex, but impossible to get the distinctive funnel shape of a tornadic vortex by the principles of fluid dynamics -- the concentration of energy at the base of the tornado is actually a violation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (i.e., energy density isn't supposed to increase with distance from the source of the energy, which in a tornado should be up in the cloud). So without even understanding the problem, he jumps to the conclusion that the only way to solve it is with civil engineering on a scale way larger than has ever been attempted? What should be even stranger is that he got this published in a scientific journal, while notable tornado experts with whom I have corresponded said outright that if they were refereeing my work, they'd reject it. So my work doesn't get published, and the "tornado wall" paper does. But this kind of thing doesn't surprise me anymore. There are times when you'll only get published if you can prove that you're right. Then there are other times when you'll only get published if it's easy to see that you're wrong. If you challenge a deeply entrenched paradigm, your chances of getting published are way better if you're definitely wrong.

Tornadoes could be prevented in a variety of ways, but one easy way to protect a building with a chain link fence around it would be to install a ground rod. The posts in chain link fences are normally just set about 12" into the ground, which isn't enough to reach the water table, and thus the fence isn't grounded. But if it was, air passing through the fence on its way to the tornado would be stripped of its electric charge (just like passing air over a needle grid). Without any electric charge, the EM forces that cause the concentration of energy at the base of the tornado would go away, and thus its destructive power would be eliminated. Unfortunately, it would be tough to prove in the field, since statistically speaking, you'd have to wait about 3000 years for that particular patch of Tornado Alley to get hit. But I can prove the theory. I just can't get anybody to listen.
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby Maol » Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:26 pm

Interesting insight Charles. Are sprites associated with storms which spawn tornados. The energy exchange is between Earth and Ionosphere, or ... ??

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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby CharlesChandler » Fri Jun 27, 2014 7:07 am

Sprites (and blue jets) can occur over any thunderstorm, though supercells are far larger, and far more electrified, than ordinary thunderstorms, so they provide the more likely context. And 80% of all tornadoes are associated with supercells, so there's a loose correlation there. Sprites and tornadoes are both electric, but they're at opposite ends of the storm, and are not directly related to each other.

The discharge in a sprite is between the bottom and the top of the stratosphere, as a secondary implication of discharges inside the troposphere. The top of a mature thunderstorm is positively charged, while the middle is negatively charged. So most flashes in a thunderstorm are cloud-to-cloud strikes between those two electrodes. But before a flash, negative charges build up above the thunderstorm (in the bottom of the stratosphere), attracted to the positive charge in the top of the troposphere. When that positive charge gets neutralized by a cloud-to-cloud strike, the negative charge in the stratosphere no longer has anything holding it down to the troposphere. It is then left with more attraction to the positive charge at the top of the stratosphere (in the ionosphere). So there is a secondary flash through the stratosphere.
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby Maol » Sat Jun 28, 2014 6:29 pm

Since the EM charge enters the atmosphere with the ionized masses from the solar wind

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=15049

perhaps a solution (instead of 1,000 foot high walls :roll: ) is 30 kilometer tall (or taller) lightning rods to drain the charge to earth continuously so the charge separation cannot establish enough potential for large lightning storm and associated weather events. Of course, these 'antennae' would be harvesting electricity which could be stored and distributed, thereby pleasing the foretold destiny of Mr. Tesla.
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby CharlesChandler » Sat Jun 28, 2014 8:18 pm

Maol wrote:Since the EM charge enters the atmosphere with the ionized masses from the solar wind...

The solar wind is by no means the primary charging mechanism in a thunderstorm -- the fluctuations due to ion jets are extremely small compared to the storm-generated potentials. The fair weather field is 100 V/m, while the potential necessary for a lightning strike has to exceed the breakdown voltage of the air, which is about 2,000,000 V/m in the middle of the cloud where most flashes originate. So the storm-generated potentials are 20,000 times more powerful than the resting field between the Earth and the ionosphere.

Still, it appears that the fair weather field is a necessary condition for the development of storm-generated fields. In the fair weather field, charges within ice particles get polarized, with more electrons on the top of the particle, facing the positive charge in the ionosphere, and fewer on the bottom, repelled by the ground's negative charge. So when a heavier particle collides with a lighter one, the positive face of the heavier particle collides with the negative face of the lighter one, and electrons are transferred to the heavier particle, which continues to fall. This transports negative charge downward, leaving the top of the thunderstorm positively charged, and a lot of potential between the main positive and negative charge regions. Hence without the fair weather field, there wouldn't be a storm-generated field, and a small difference in the fair weather field might make a measurable difference in the number of lightning strikes. But this does not mean that ionospheric charges were involved in the strikes -- they simply set up the charge separation mechanism (i.e., electron transfer on particle collision).

So discharging the potentials wouldn't have to go up 30 km -- it's all in the lower 12 km. The method that is currently used is firing small rockets (< 1 m tall) roughly 2 km into the atmosphere, trailing a very thin wire, which is just enough to get the current flowing. With more than a couple of milli-amps of current, the wire burns out, but the current continues to flow through the superheated ion channel, and quickly graduates to a full-fledged lightning strike. This is called "triggered lightning", and NASA has been doing it since the mid-1980s to discharge thunderstorms before passing over the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, to reduce lightning damage to the big rockets. Triggered lightning was first conceived in the 1950s as a way of reducing the driving forces in tornadoes, though nobody ever actually tried it, and the technology wasn't implemented until NASA picked up on it for their own reasons. I think that it's time that somebody actually try it on a tornadic storm.
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby Maol » Sun Jun 29, 2014 1:13 pm

I think an antenna project is as practical as three 1,000 foot tall walls hundreds of miles long.

If the antennae went all the way to geosynchronous orbit we wouldn’t need to rub the planet on a cat to get our electricity.

:shock: <--- Shocked smilie ...
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby Armand » Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:00 am

I would like to see more research done on Wilhelm Reich's Cloudbuster technology.

Image
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloudbuster
http://montalk.net/cloudbusting/cloudbust.html

My friend an I first heard about these in the early 90's. Reich believed that the energy in storms was related to the life force energy that came from the Sun, which he called orgone (aka prana, chi, kudalini, etc), and that it accumulated in clouds.

Orgone is similar to electricity (electric charge), but not exactly the same. Reich believed that it was the accumulation of orgone in the clouds (actually, negative orgone, which he called DOR - Deadly ORgone) that gave storms their destructive strength, and that if you could drain, or discharge, this orgone energy from the clouds, you could weaken, or "bust up", a severe storm.

Image

Years ago my friend and I built one, but we were too embarrassed/scared to ever actually take it out to a lake and test it (apparently, you need a big body of water as your ground potential in order to draw down - and hold - the orgone energy that you drain from the clouds). It looked too much like some sort of anti-aircraft gun and we did not want to have to 'explain it' to the authorities. So it just collected dust in the garage and was eventually discarded.

But we did manage to test it once - one night - during a mild rain storm, using a small puddle of water that had accumulated in my friends backyard (it was like a small pond - about 6-8 inches deep). The clouds were so low and dark that night, that it felt like you could reach out and touch them.

So in the comfort and safety of my friend's backyard, we pulled out the device, dropped the ground cable into the puddle of water and pointed the gadget (the tubes) at the nearest cloud - and - believe it or not - I began to write my name in the cloud - like the device was some sort of laser.

Unfortunately, I only got the first two lines of the W (for William) written before it stopped working - I believe we had exhausted the charge capacity of the small puddle of water. But those two line were clearly carved by me in real-time - much to the shock and amazement of three of us who witnessed it...

We never tested it again (don't ask me why - maybe fear).

I do know that there have been some that have taken this technology much further, but I suspect the scale/size of these devices were probably too small to make a dent in an actual Thunderstorm. I would like to see a really big one of these gadgets built/tested. I believe it would prove very interesting...

It is a similar concept to Charles' rockets - take the charge out of the clouds. But I suspect, that if the scale was large enough, that it might even work better (at draining the energy out of the storm) - and have the added benefit of (once built) being reusable.

Something to think about... (I too, would like to put an end to deadly storms)

Cheers...
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby CharlesChandler » Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:09 am

That reminds me of Bill Beaty's "air thread" demonstrations, where he was writing his name in nitrogen fog with his fingertip from several inches away.
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby bill miller » Wed Jul 09, 2014 2:22 pm

"the concentration of energy at the base of the tornado is actually a violation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics (i.e., energy density isn't supposed to increase with distance from the source of the energy, which in a tornado should be up in the cloud)."

Then a parabolic mirror, or a magnifying glass when you're frying ants, violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby CharlesChandler » Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:18 pm

bill miller wrote:Then a parabolic mirror, or a magnifying glass when you're frying ants, violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

In a simplistic sense, that's correct. So how is that possible? To get a concentration of energy, away from the source of the energy, there has to be something to focus that energy.

To stick to apples-and-apples comparisons, we can consider these principles entirely within the scope of fluid dynamics. If it is a violation of the 2nd Law for energy density to increase with distance from the source of the energy, how is it possible for a firehose nozzle to increase the velocity of the water being pumped through it, which definitely increases the energy density? The answer is that all other factors being the same, the velocity of the water decreases with distance from the source of the energy, due to friction, but if you apply a force that concentrates the flow, you can increase the velocity. In the case of the firehose nozzle, the force is applied by the strength of the nozzle. Without that strength, the nozzle would not apply any force, and the water would not be accelerated.

This is true not just of high pressure flows accelerated by nozzles, but also of low pressure flows. For example, in an internal combustion engine, during the intake stroke, the valves only open a fraction of an inch. That much air flowing through that small of a crack creates back-pressure on the engine. So why don't they open the valves more, to reduce that back-pressure? One reason is that it helps the mixing of fuel & air inside the cylinder. Drawing the air through a narrow crack greatly increases its velocity. Once inside the cylinder, this vacuum jet converts to a turbulent flow, which helps mix the fuel & air, to get more complete combustion. So the source of the energy is the piston being pulled away from the valve, creating a vacuum, but the air flows into the cylinder at a much faster speed than the movement of the piston, because a large volume of air has to be drawn through a small opening. The bottom line is that this isn't a violation of first principles, as long as there is, indeed, a force that is being applied to the flow, to get a concentration of energy away from the source.

The corollary is that if we observe a flow that is getting accelerated, away from the source of the energy, we know that something has applied a force to that flow, constricting it, and thereby forcing a large volume of fluid through a small area, increasing the energy density.

Then the question is: in the atmosphere, what force is being applied to the flow of air into a tornado that constricts the flow, affecting an increase in velocity? In an open-air system like that, all of the fluid dynamic factors put together (i.e., pressure, density, inertia, viscosity, and skin friction) wouldn't produce any concentration of energy away from the source. This is why CFD apps cannot simulate tornadic flows, nor has anybody ever created a tornadic flow in the laboratory just with a vacuum vortex in the open air. Are there any other possibilities? Ah, there is but one more force present in and around the thunderstorms that produce tornadoes: electromagnetism. (Why do you think they call them "thunderstorms"?) So EM is the only candidate for being the force that can constrict the flow, producing increased velocities.
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby Chromium6 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:25 pm

So is this true then(?):

Diagram: Ice particles collide with a hailstone whose surface is warmed by riming. Ice particles rebound with positive charge and hailstone receives negative charge.

Image

The charge transfer appears to be due to the fact that positive ions move through ice much faster than negative ions. As new ice surface is created by vapour deposition, the positive ions migrate rapidly into the interior of the ice, leaving the surface negatively charged. During a collision material from each of the particles is mixed, but negative charge is transferred to the particle with the slower growth rate. In some thunderstorms, a relatively weak positive charge is observed just below the main charging zone. This may be associated with the charging of solid precipitation during melting or to mixed phase processes.

Image

http://martinlweather.blogspot.fr/2011/ ... torms.html

--------

Hailstones as big as softballs

Three people sustained head injuries on Saturday afternoon near a lake west of Bismarck, North Dakota after a severe storm dropped hailstones as large as softballs.

Hailstones of this size can be fatal. Luckily, it’s been 14 years since the last known fatality directly caused by hail in the United States.

A hailstone slightly larger than a baseball can fall at a rate of more than 100 MPH according to NOAA, so it’s a surprising fact that more people aren’t injured or killed by hailstorms more often.

http://thevane.gawker.com/surprisingly- ... 1600721762

Baseball-sized hail pummels couple’s home in Imperial, Sask.
Norman and Becky Lucas’ roof was punctured by baseball-sized hail during Saturday’s storm

“What started as pea-sized drops pecking at the ceiling soon grew into baseballs crashing through the roof and denting the yard like giant ice meteors.

Dozens of holes pepper the couple’s roof and siding. Norman says some of the holes are the size of his head. They still have some of the perpetrators stored in their freezer.

Beyond the house, their truck’s sunroof and barn’s skylight are smashed, the bar-b-que is a dented piece of metal, and leaves and tree branches lay scattered about the property. Their once fairly flat property is now speckled with four inch dents.
http://cjme.com/story/baseball-sized-ha ... ask/385274

http://iceagenow.info/2014/07/hailstones-big-softballs/

------

Saturday, 16 July 2011
Lightning and Thunder
...

A lightning discharge within a cloud generally neutralizes the main positive and negative charge centers. Instead of consisting of several discrete strokes, such a discharge generally consists of a single, slowly moving spark or leader that travels between the positively and the negatively charged regions in a few tenths of a second. This current produces a low but continuous luminosity in the cloud upon which may be superimposed several brighter pulses, each lasting about 1 ms. Tropical thunderstorms produce about 10 cloud discharges for every ground discharge, but in temperate latitudes the frequencies of the two types of discharge are similar. The return stroke of a lightning flash raises the temperature of the channel of air through which it passes to above 30,000 K in such a short time that the air has no time to expand. Therefore, the pressure in the channel increases almost instantaneously to 10-100 atm. The high-pressure channel then expands rapidly into the surrounding air and creates a very powerful shock wave (which travels faster than the speed of sound) and, farther out, a sound wave that is heard as thunder. Thunder is also produced by stepped and dart leaders, but it is much weaker than that from return strokes. Thunder generally cannot be heard more than 25 km from a lightning discharge. At greater distances the thunder passes over an observer’s head because it is generally refracted upward due to the decrease of temperature with height.

Although most ground lightning flashes carry negative charge to the ground, about 10% of the lightning flashes in mid-latitude thunderstorms carry a positive charge to the ground. Moreover, these flashes carry the largest peak currents and charge transfers. Such flashes may originate from the horizontal displacement by wind shear of positive charge in the upper regions of a thunderstorm or, in some cases, from the main charge centers in a thunderstorm being inverted from normal.
Posted by Martin Lach at 12:42

http://martinlweather.blogspot.fr/2011/ ... under.html
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby CharlesChandler » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:44 pm

Chromium6 wrote:The charge transfer appears to be due to the fact that positive ions move through ice much faster than negative ions.

Actually, in a solid, +ions don't "go" anywhere -- the atomic nuclei are locked in place by the crystal lattice. So it's more accurate to look just for the movement of electrons. IMO, the most plausible model is this:

Electrification.png
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby Xantos » Sun Jul 13, 2014 10:31 am

So if storms produce lightnings and dust particles produce/are affected by static electricity...would it be possible to create a static charge (or some sort of electric field) defense system/"a trap" to stabilize a tornado in one spot until the pressures are equalized and the tornado dissipates?
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Re: We Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot W

Unread postby CharlesChandler » Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:14 pm

Xantos wrote:So if storms produce lightnings and dust particles produce/are affected by static electricity...would it be possible to create a static charge (or some sort of electric field) defense system/"a trap" to stabilize a tornado in one spot until the pressures are equalized and the tornado dissipates?

Maybe. But it wouldn't be easy. Despite all of the distinctive EM phenomena associated with tornadoes, researchers can't get their minds around the possibility that tornadoes are EM. The reason is that tornadoes don't show a strong preference for surface conductivity, which you'd expect if they were purely EM.

Of course, that's a bit naive. Lightning is purely EM, and it definitely prefers the path of least electrical resistance (i.e., the greatest conductivity). This is why lightning rods work. But that doesn't explain why lightning can strike a house that has lightning rods, hitting something other than the rods. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories found that if you want to guarantee that lightning doesn't strike your house, you have to set up a grid of conductors no more than 1 m apart. So yes, currents follow the path of least resistance, but lightning finds its initial path through the atmosphere on the basis of conductivities at the microscopic scale, and only when it gets very close to the ground does it find the nearest grounded conductor.

Tornadoes are EM, and according to numerous eye-witness accounts, they do favor conductors such as rivers and railroad tracks. But the correlation isn't absolute. Anybody who has actually studied EM knows that this doesn't rule it out, while people who haven't studied it (such as most meteorologists) dismiss EM as a factor.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that tornadoes are not simple discharges between the atmosphere and the Earth. Rather, the potential energy that is released in a tornado comes from a body of positively charged air skimming along the surface, which is superheated by skin friction, but which still clings to the ground, because of the electrostatic potential between the positively charged air and the negatively charged ground. Even though the field is typically only 3~5 kV/m, and the space charge is only 1 part in 100 million, the electric force is still strong enough to hold down air that is hot enough (due to skin friction) to rise 1 km above the surface, as soon as it is released from the clutches of the electric force. So the source of the energy is skin friction, which gets built up in a large body of air near the ground, way above the temperature that would have lifted it off the ground (and thus eliminated further skin friction) because the electric force is holding the air down. When the charges are neutralized, all of that thermal potential is released, causing an extremely vigorous updraft starting right at the ground level, which is why tornadoes can be so destructive. But because the thermal potential is being stored in a large body of positively charged air, covering as much as 5 km2 surrounding the tornado, the enhanced conductivity of rivers and railroad tracks don't make much difference. (Imagine a plate magnet of 5 km2, moving over the ground. If there was a 1 m2 magnet on the ground, would it halt the movement of the 5 km2 plate magnet? Actually, the small magnet would be equally attracted to any aspect of the large magnet, and thus the large magnet would be free to move around, with 5 km2 of throw. As it moved forward, if it found a new 1 m2 magnet on the ground ahead of it, it would just shift onto the new one and keep moving, as if the magnets on the ground weren't even there.) So it would take more than just surface conductivity to alter the path of a tornado.

The neutralization of the charged air is accomplished in two ways. First, dust on the ground (if rain hasn't already soaked the soil) can get lofted by the electrostatic potential between the negatively charged Earth and the positively charged air. Once the dust is imbedded in the air, the air becomes net neutral, and ascends rapidly. Surprisingly, the more reliable source of negative charge is an electric current flowing down from the cloud, through the increased conductivity of the low pressure air inside the vortex. There is no shortage of negative charge in the cloud base. The surprising thing is that air (even at low pressure) is a better conduit than currents coming straight out of the ground. Nevertheless, the current in the air has been detected every time the appropriate instrumentation has been deployed. Recent research has detected large particles moving down the funnel, which is surprising in that the tornado is supposed to be an updraft. It's possible the large raindrops and/or hailstones, which can host a much greater charge density than the air, are serving as the charge transport mechanism. Anyway, this current is always present in tornadoes, whether or not there are also telluric currents helping to neutralize the positively charged air at the base of the tornado.

TornadoStructure.jpg

So then comes the question of how we could artificially neutralize the air, and thus deprive the tornado of its potential energy. It isn't easy neutralizing a space charge in a large body of air. IMO, the best bet would be to go straight for the source, by triggering lightning in the rear flank downdraft.

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Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll spend the rest of the day sitting in a small boat, drinking beer and telling dirty jokes.

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The Electromagnetic Nature of Tornadic Supercell Thunderstorms
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