The thought of a tornado ripping down your street is enough to give anyone nightmares. These powerful weather events take lives, cause massive amounts of damage, and are incredibly dangerous.
With wind speeds of up 300mph, a strong tornado can tear trees out of the ground, rip a house to shreds and lift humans and livestock high into the air.
They form from large thunderstorms known as supercells and eventually touch down when warm, moist air rises into cold air.
We always think of tornadoes as natural, but this may not always be the case. Today, we’re going to answer a question that many are eager to learn the answer to. “Can tornadoes be man-made?”
YES, whilst it may seem like a fairytale to some, tornadoes CAN be man-made. That said, artificial tornadoes are much smaller than natural ones, so there is no need to go running for the hills just yet.
Let’s take a closer look…
Can Tornadoes Be Artificially Made?
Tornadoes can be artificially made. Although man-made tornadoes do not even come close to the size of natural tornadoes.
In 1969, Louis Michaud invented the atmospheric vortex engine as a way of creating controlled, man-made tornadoes.
What started off as a hobby, Michaud had no intention of creating energy and instead was hoping for water.
He thought if you could heat air and then capture the condensation as it cools it might offer an alternative to conventional distillation, but that didn’t work out.
However, Michaud was surprised to learn that the atmosphere is warmed from below and cooled from above when he read about it.
He later built multiple iterations of his engine, one of which was supported by Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs on the Lambton College campus in Toronto.
“It was very exciting,” he said, to see a man-made twister rising out of the engine, made visible by smoke injected at the base. “The whole team was shouting.”
Are Tornadoes Caused By Humans?
It would be unfair to directly attribute tornadoes to human activities. Tornadoes are formed from large thunderstorms known as supercells and require the perfect cocktail of weather events to form.
Tornadoes form when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air. This happens most in certain parts of the world such as the central USA, also known as tornado alley.
During the summer/spring months, weather conditions are just right for large supercell storms to form, which makes the odds of tornadoes forming much more likely.
However, scientists have discovered that an upsurge in tornadoes and hailstorms during summer weekdays is caused by human activity that releases aerosols.
The research team used data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center to analyze summertime storm activity in the eastern US from 1995 to 2009.
The data showed that tornadoes and hailstorms occurred at a rate of 20 percent above average during the week and 20 percent below on the weekend.
The researchers then looked at the data obtained from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on summertime air pollution in the eastern US over the same time period and found that it peaks midweek.
The link between this and the pollution produced during the working days was made by the researchers as a result.
So how does pollution lead to tornadoes and bad weather?
According to researchers, moisture collects around pollutant specks, which in turn causes additional cloud droplets as the pollution level rises.
According to computer models, more hail could be produced as these large droplets are carried higher into the atmosphere.
In comparison to an identical mass of smaller particles of typically condensed water droplets or ice, the larger and heavier hail-producing droplets produced by pollutants have a reduced surface area.
Pollution-based droplets evaporate more slowly and are less likely to absorb heat from the surrounding atmosphere.
This facilitates the formation of the super droplets that give rise to tornadoes in the warm air. The report was released in the Journal of Geophysical Research’s December 2011 issue.
Who knew…tornadoes and other extreme weather could be amplified by our human own activities.
Are Tornadoes Natural?
Tornadoes are natural. They are natural disasters that occur when the perfect combination of warm and cold air collides with one another from a large thunderstorm.
Whilst it’s true that tornadoes can be artificially made, the tornadoes that strike the United States every year and most certainly natural.
No vortex machine or man-made technology has the ability to create such tornadoes, and instead can only produce very small, whispy tornadoes that don’t have much power.
The man-made tornadoes that Louis Michaud created with his vortex engine are very small and can be contained in a small space such as a dining room table.
Nature is incredibly powerful and creates many extreme weather events. Hurricanes, blizzards, thunderstorms, and tornadoes are all-natural weather events that happen here on planet earth.
Hopefully, you now have a clear answer to “can tornadoes be man-made” and have learned something new today in this post.
Yes, tornadoes can be man-made. However, artificially made tornadoes are very small and whispy, certainly not strong enough to cause damage or deaths like natural tornadoes.
That said, the amount of power large tornadoes create is immense. A tornado can generate as much energy as an entire power plant, so recreating tornadoes is something scientists are very interested in.
If humans were able to recreate large and powerful tornadoes, we could harness this energy and use it as a power source.
This is why it’s incredibly fascinating that Louis Michaud created a vortex machine as if created on a larger scale this could be a brand new renewable energy source for humanity.
We’re still a very long way off from being able to do this, but it’s a positive sign that someday in the near future we may be able to replicate natural tornadoes.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one!
Hey, I’m Sam – the founder of GustyPlanet. I’ve had a fascination with all things weather for as long as I can remember. I witnessed my first tornado at the age of 6, and since then became an avid storm chaser that is hooked on learning as much as I can about extreme weather. This blog was created to share my knowledge and to expand and delve deeper into the wonderful world of weather phenomena. I hope you enjoy your stay here and thanks for visiting.