I watched a NOVA program about the deadly 2011 tornadoes last night. One of the tornado researchers they interviewed said some thing to the effect that the way to prevent such tragedies is to improve warning systems, so that people get warned hours in advance.
Today I see that weather forecasters are predicting strong tornadoes in the Midwest for tomorrow. 24-hours warning; that’s pretty good. So, everyone in the danger zone should head to their safe-rooms or basements until Sunday.
The problem is, for many people, that’s unfortunately not practical. That’s why the idea of tornado prevention fascinates me so much, even though I suppose it’s more likely that we will figure out how to mass-produce tornado-proof buildings before we learn how to do that. I posted about it earlier this year, and I still wonder about how we could go about preventing tornadoes.
My layman’s understanding is that tornadoes form when a cold front hits a warm front, so it seems to me that something to either cool the warm front or warm the cold front is in order. So, why wouldn’t putting silver iodide into the warm front help? (Obviously it wouldn’t, because we’re not doing it, but I still don’t quite understand why.)
We’ve had an unusually warm winter in the U.S, and yesterday there was a deadly outbreak of tornadoes. Here is a Reuters article by Deborah Zabarenko from over a week ago about experts in the field predicting a bad tornado season. To quote from the article:
Climate change is indirectly related to this forecast because strong thunderstorms create conditions where tornadoes can form, and strong thunderstorms could be fueled by the warmer-than-normal surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico, according to Paul Walker, senior meteorologist at Accuweather.
Obviously, you can’t say “it’s climate change” just based on two bad tornado seasons in a row. But it’s still an important–and tragic–data point.
I’ve often wondered if there’s any means of dissipating a tornado, or lessening its force somehow. They seem to have pretty good advance warning about them, so there might be time to put something together. I was reading about Project Stormfury, and even though it was a total failure, I wonder if it might be the germ of an idea for something worthwhile, either because tornadoes have different properties or else by seeding them with different substances. I also found this forum discussion on the topic of tornado prevention, for what it’s worth.
Or we could decide to believe that humanity has no impact on the environment. That’s also an option.