Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Stopping Tornados
Name: Anthony M.
Status: student
Age: 16
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 6/4/2004


Question:
I read in a recent article that it has become possible to "stop" a tornado from happening through the use of satellite/laser systems. Is there any truth to this that work?


Replies:
I do not know what satellite/lasers are circling above, but I have experienced a few tornados. Their energy is truly fearsome. Nothing is impossible, but the evidence would have to be pretty strong to claim to stop a tornado in its tracks.

Vince Calder


Dear Anthony-

I have not seen the article you referred to, but doubt that laser technology has advanced enough to be used to affect tornadic thunderstorms. These storms are very powerful, releasing as much energy as a small nuclear bomb every minute of their existence. And cloud layers tend to disperse and absorb laser beams, making it difficult to penetrate very deeply inside a storm.

At some future time we may be able to affect the development or intensification of severe storms, possibly involving lasers, but I'm not aware of any near-term possibilities.

Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist
Forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO


Anthony,

There is no truth to what you read. People speculate about ways to change/prevent weather and climate, but there is little that we can do (other than making bad impacts, such as through pollution) against the enormous energy contained in weather systems. Minor effects can be achieved through cloud seeding to produce small amounts of precipitation, but that is about the limit of our capabilities.

Laser systems have been proposed and even tested to trigger lightning (which we have traditionally done with copper wires trailing behind rockets), but they only discharge storm energy that would have been discharged naturally anyway.

David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory


Anthony, The energies associated with a tornado are so vast, I doubt if any laser (satellite or otherwise) could disrupt it. It will be interesting to see what other NEWTON scientists have to say on your question. Regards, ProfHoff 855


Click here to return to the Weather Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory