Can Mega Wind Farms Inhibit a Tornado or Defer Its Path?

I was watching ABC news about the 900 mile swath of 21 tornadoes that were active from western Michigan to Missouri last night and remembered watching a special on TV about one of climatologist’s biggest fears, tornadoes that unite to become multi-vortex mega storms. Is this what we’re beginning to experience? The NOAA website reports: “There is a statistical trend (as documented by NSSL’s Harold Brooks) toward wide tornadoes having higher damage ratings. This could be related to greater tornado strength, more opportunity for targets to damage, or some blend of both. However, the size or shape of any particular tornado does not say anything conclusive about its strength.” So there is a trend but it appears to be downplayed, while tornadoes are becoming rampant across the heartland of our country, destroying more and more properties every year, and occurring out of season.

Residents in the Missouri area said they witnessed 4 distinct heads of the multi vortex tornado that covered a 5-mile swath of land. This tornado was also described by the newscaster as a bouncer, touching down, going up, and then touching down again. The same NOAA website states that tornadoes don’t literally skip. It says: “By definition [] a tornado must be in contact with the ground. There is disagreement in meteorology over whether or not multiple touchdowns of the same vortex or funnel cloud mean different tornadoes (a strict interpretation). In either event, stories of skipping tornadoes usually mean

1. There was continuous contact between vortex and ground in the path, but it was too weak to do damage;
2. Multiple tornadoes happened; but there was no survey done to precisely separate their paths (very common before the 1970s); or
3. There were multiple tornadoes with only short separation, but the survey erroneously classified them as one tornado.

So was this multi-vortex, bouncing tornado possibly a new phenomena? Is there anything that can be done to limit the increasing velocity and strength of tornadoes? Well, “Daniel Barrie and Daniel Kirk-Davidoff of the University of Maryland concocted an experiment. They took the pattern of expanding turbine fields to an extreme, and used a computer model to calculate what might happen if all the land from Texas to central Canada, and from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains were covered in one massive wind farm,” according to an article on Discovery Channel website. It said, “[They] acknowledged the hypothetical wind farm was far larger than anything humans are likely to build. But meeting the Department of Energy’s goal of wind power generation by 2030 would require that scores of huge wind farms be built throughout the Midwestern United States. The total disturbance caused by turbines could be enough to steer storms.”
Interesting!

Although the NOAA website states that it is unlikely we could ever come up with anything that could stop a tornado that wouldn’t be worse than the tornado itself, it does talk about dissipating one, which means to slow down or cause it to break up. The website’s FAQ’s page said that tornadoes do need a source of instability and a “larger-scale property of rotation (vorticity) to keep going.” It went on to say that a lot of processes surrounding a storm could rob the area around a tornado of either instability or vorticity. Cold outflow is one. This is the flow of wind out of the precipitation area of a shower or thunderstorm. It’s been observed that cold outflow causes a tornado to go away. It also says: “For decades, storm observers have documented the death of numerous tornadoes when their parent circulations (mesocyclones) weaken after they become wrapped in outflow air — either from the same thunderstorm or a different one.”

Could that different outflow of air possibly be produced by large wind farms in the near future? Could they produce enough wind to replicate the outflow air of a thunderstorm? If so, it’s incentive enough to develop wind power. There are far too many homes and properties destroyed every year from increasingly bad weather. If we thought the stock market dive was bad, imagine insurance companies going bust?

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=7582543

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/11/25/wind-farms-weather.html

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado

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14 thoughts on “Can Mega Wind Farms Inhibit a Tornado or Defer Its Path?

  1. Innovation has to be unleashed before anything gets improved upon. Inventions tend to get smaller, better, cheaper over time. We have to start first, then one foot in front of the other…

    That will take a huge fight since big polluting industry just doesn’t want to change and has enough clout to hold things up until they are ready. But industry is business and I’ve believed all along that industry will drive environmentalism. There is just too much savings potential with free wind, sun, and algae, plus our world competition is ahead of us.

    What is advancing most quickly is algae fuel. Exxon Mobil invested billions into it. I’ve blogged about it more than once. Our military is researching algae fuel, and Honeywell sold the first batch to the Navy. Navy jets are testing the algae fuel now. We may be using combinations of fuel in the future. Solar power for a/c and some appliances, while algae fuel could be utilized for home heating and other appliances, and a wind turbine for excess.

    No one will see any of this if we stymie progress.

  2. Thanks. It’s too bad our country is strapped economically so that we can’t really offer huges incentives for average citizens to get involved like my article about Germany and the incentives they offered to their citizens to go solar. If there were enough incentives, I could talk my husband into solar panels. I have a huge roof that get sun all day. But until then I still use my 12 ft of southern exposed windows in the winter. I turn the heat off on a sunny winter day and that sunshine heats the entire front of my house for at least 5 hours. If you have exposed southern exposure try it sometime. It sure cuts the so-called “cheap” natural gas bill down quite a bit.

  3. That is the problem but like I said on one of my blogs, we won’t be able to improve on anything until we unleash the first round of alternatives. I used mainframe computers as an examply. When I first worked on a desktop back in 74 at U of M, the mainframe took up an entire room! Now I reply to you from my little laptop, and I only had an IPad…

    Improve: To raise to a more desirable or more excellent quality or condition; make better. 2. To increase the productivity or value of (land or property). …

    Gotta have an invention to start with in order to improve. Oh and a truly free market where the big guys don’t squash the competition with lower pricing, ownership of delivery systems, ownership of the transportation of the raw materials, and deep pockets to keep innovation down until they decide, etc.

  4. Wind power is the process by which wind is used to generate power or electricity. The power of the wind is actually a form of solar power – wind change and variability is caused by uneven heating of the ground by the sun. In order to fully use the power that the wind is capable of generating, many countries have set up wind farms. In a wind farm, many different wind turbines (a structure that uses a propeller-like blade to take in the wind’s power) are set up in an area. With all the wind turbines working at the same time, it’s thought that these farms are a great way to produce large amounts of electricity. .

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