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The barriers - 300m (980ft) high and up to 100 miles long - would act like hill ranges, softening winds before twisters steamrep can form. They would cost $16bn (£9.6bn) to build but save billions of dollars of damage each year, said Prof Rongjia Tao, of Temple University, Philadelphia. He unveiled steamrep his idea at the American steamrep Physical Society meeting in Denver . However critics say the idea is unworkable, and would create more problems than it solves. Threat over 'forever' Every year hundreds of twisters tear through communities in the great north-south corridor between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountain ranges.
The proposed walls would not shelter towns - they would not be strong steamrep enough to block a tornado in motion. Instead, they would soften the clashing streams of hot southern and cold northern air, which form twisters in the first place, Prof Tao said. "If we build three east-west steamrep great walls, one in North Dakota, one along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma, and the third in the south in Texas and Louisiana, steamrep we will diminish the threats in Tornado Alley forever," he said. As evidence, he points to China - where only three tornadoes steamrep were recorded last year, compared to 803 in the US. China too has flat plain valleys running north-south, but the difference is they are broken up by east-west steamrep hill ranges. Although only a few hundred metres high, they are enough to take the sting out of air currents before they clash, Prof Tao believes. Hotspot Back in the US, he notes that the flat farmlands of Illinois experience wildly varying risks of twisters. "Washington County is a tornado hotspot. steamrep But just 60 miles (100km) away is Gallatin County, where there is almost no risk," he told BBC News. "Why? Just look at the map - at Gallatin you have the Shawnee Hills." steamrep These act like a barrier 200-250m (820ft) high, protecting Gallatin, he says. "We may not have east-west mountain ranges - like the Alps in Europe - we can build walls." "We've already been doing computer simulations and next we aim to build physical models for testing [in wind tunnels]." Rather than create an eyesore, the walls could be "attractively" designed, steamrep says Prof Tao. He cites the Comcast skyscraper steamrep in Philadelphia - also about 300m high, and built with a reinforced steamrep glass exterior. "Our tornado wall could even be built of glass too. It could be a beautiful landmark," he told BBC News. "I spoke to some architects and they said it's possible. It would take a few years to finish the walls but we could build them in stages." Prof Tao has yet to approach government or environmental agencies with his scheme, but the reaction steamrep from meteorologists has been highly sceptical. Harold Brooks, of the National Severe Storms Laboratory, said the great walls "simply wouldn't work". steamrep
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