Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Taming Tornadoes

Meteorology

During an average year in the United States, some 800 tornadoes injure more than a thousand people. A California physicist believes it is possible to use blasts of microwave energy from a satellite to diffuse developing tornadoes before they can wreak their damage.

Bernard Eastlund, president of Eastlund Scientific Enterprises in San Diego, Calif., proposes using microwaves to heat the cool, rainy downdrafts that form a tornado. According to modeling by Eastlund on supercomputers at the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, about 100 million watts of energy added to the descending air column could disrupt a downdraft that otherwise might spawn a tornado.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) physicist Paul Bryant, an expert on tornadoes, thinks Eastlund’s idea is practical. “He’s got a good concept and has demonstrated in computer models that you can arrest a tornado,” Bryant says. Bryant, who is FEMA’s adviser to NASA on its efforts to mitigate natural disasters, says the International Space Station would be an ideal vehicle for an initial test that would involve diffusing developing waterspouts over remote sections of ocean.

This story is part of our July/August 2000 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Not everyone thinks that’s a great idea. Dan McCarthy, a tornado expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., cautions that diffusing tornadoes might open a meteorological Pandora’s box. “I’d be real careful in trying,” McCarthy says. “You may set off another area of thunderstorms elsewhere.”

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.