"Under Attack By Godless Tornadoes"

I looked at my correspondence after lunch yesterday and found numerous Facebook comments about this abstract (summary of a scientific paper) for next month's American Physical Society session on climate. This abstract is the poster child for why you must have an understanding of atmospheric science to make a positive contribution to climate or weather science.

Here is the abstract, I am intentionally omitting the author's name (this isn't personal). Bold type is mine.
   (Dept. of Physics, Temple Univ, Philadelphia, PA)

The recent devastating tornado attacks in Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota raise an important question: can we do something to eliminate the major tornado threats in Tornado Alley? Violent tornado attacks in Tornado Alley are starting from intensive encounters between the northbound warm air flow and southbound cold air flow. As there is no mountain in Tornado Alley ranging from west to east to weaken or block such air flows, some encounters are violent, creating instability: The strong wind changes direction and increases in speed and height. As a result, it creates a supercell, violent vortex, an invisible horizontal spinning motion in the lower atmosphere. When the rising air tilts the spinning air from horizontal to vertical, tornadoes with radii of miles are formed and cause tremendous damage. Here we show that if we build three east-west great walls in the American Midwest, 300m high and 50m wide, one in North Dakota, one along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma to east, and the third one in the south Texas and Louisiana, we will diminish the tornado threats in the Tornado Alley forever. We may also build such great walls at some area with frequent devastating tornado attacks first, then gradually extend it.

Tornado "attacks." I knew I'd heard that characterization before:
As to the rest of it, it is nonsense. In order,
  1. The old cold air hitting warm air canard. That is misleading at best, especially since most of the violent Plains thunderstorms occur along a "dry line" where there is a relatively small temperature difference.
  2. Instability has to do with vertical temperature changes, not horizontal.
  3. Tornado rotation is around a vertical, not horizontal axis (although I concede I'm not sure what it is he is trying to say). 
  4. The "Great Wall of Tornadoes" -- if supercell thunderstorms with F-5 tornadoes could laugh, they would have a hearty chuckle as they "attacked" the wall. If tornadoes can go up and down mountains (and they can!), they would go over/through the wall. 
This isn't the first silly paper to be presented at a scientific conference and it will not be the last. But, the larger point is that is being presented at a climate session. As discussed here over and over, many climate scientists do not have the slightest concept of how the real world (as opposed to computer modeled) atmosphere works. That, is a real issue. 

And, yes, this was supported via your tax dollars.

ADDITION: USA Today chimes in.

And, for those who have asked, the funding came from the U.S. Navy. 


  1. Thank goodness this "qualified expert" failed to make the obvious tweaks - replace "300m great walls" with "lines of 150m wind turbines" - and this "expert" would've had the room giving them a standing ovation.

  2. Who awards a degree to such a person who authors sophomoric tripe like this? I suppose that the funding for his 'projects' comes from an agenda driven backer. Wow, a fence, he must have taken that idea from the one on our Southern border ... oh wait, that isn't working so well either.

  3. The funding came from the U.S. Navy.

  4. I fully support one large 300 m wall built east to west in South Texas! We could extend it all the way to the Pacific Ocean, along the southern border! Just think of the lives it would save!

    1. Now THERE'S an idea I could get behind. I've always been a strong proponent of multi-purpose endeavors.

  5. Just for fun, I ran some numbers on this idea, completely ignoring its meteorological ridiculousness. With poured concrete averaging about $160 per square meter according to the online quotes I found (no idea as to their accuracy, I haven't had to seriously price construction work in a long time), this project would come in at a mere $1.5 trillion. Not counting labor. For comparison, NASA has estimated the cost of a Mars colonization mission at $100 billion. If the scientists don't laugh this guy out of the room, the bean counters will.

  6. Gee, Mike-since this is in Denver next week, it seems to me we ought to be able to rally some ACTUAL meteorologists to buy a day pass to this thing. Our profession should be represented in the audience armed with FACTS, proudly wearing their PhD's on their sleeves.

    Session Q30: The Physics of Climate
    Denver Convention Center
    2:30 PM–5:06 PM, Wednesday, March 5, 2014
    Room: 605
    Sponsoring Unit: GPC

    Boulder Atmospheric Scientist-COME ON DOWN!


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