Are Man-Made Tornadoes the Answer to Global Warming?

Tyler Hamilton, a journalist at the Toronto Star, reports on the fascinating ideas being put forth by a retired engineer named Louis Michaud. The 66-year-old Michaud believes it is possible to create and control full-scale tornadoes and harness their power as electricity. He claims the cost of energy generated by his tornadoes would be well below that from coal-powered plants.

As big as this idea might sound, the inventor actually has something much bigger in mind:

He says down the road, hundreds of vortex engines could be located in the ocean along the equator, where the warm tropical water would provide an endless source of energy.

Why would anyone do such a thing?

To cool the planet, Michaud says. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are what prevent the sun’s heat from radiating back into space, he explains. A series of controlled tornadoes along the equator would carry that heat to the outer edges of the atmosphere, where it could more easily escape.

In other words, Michaud believes man-made tornadoes could function as exhaust systems for the planet, a massive air conditioner that could help manage global warming.

This is probably too good to be true, but all you need is one big idea like this to work. If that happens, all the gloom and doom and real economic sacrifice associated with global warming becomes a small footnote in the history books. Technology and human ingenuity have solved just about every problem we’ve faced so far; there is no obvious reason why global warming shouldn’t succumb as well.


Sure, technology and human ingenuity have solved lots of problems so far, but that shouldn't serve as an excuse to indulge in ludicrous science-fiction fantasies like this one. Stick to the economics. I'm pretty sure you didn't write posts this silly before you moved over to the NY Times.


Man made tornados are PERFECT!
We all know global warming is Grayface's effort to ultimately uniformitize the globalic environment.
Tornados are the goddess' own elegant solution and she is speaking through Mr. Michaud!


Wow, whatever happened to seeing the world through innocent and curious eyes?

Like, remember when people were, like, totally talking about sending people to, like, the moon and stuff? LOLs, ridiculous, I know!

Grow up, there's nothing silly about a) thinking up ways in which to make the world a better place to live in and b) not limiting economics to some lame and boring elitist rant (plus, the entire global warming phenomenon does work as some sort of incentive today - think about it... what happens if it were to disappear as such?).

Or, you know, whatever.


Ben's still cranky about the partial RSS feeds.


This is too recent to have been included in 1990's "Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over the Edge" by Ed Regis.

As I recall, one of the "slightly over the edge" ideas was to harness the power of black holes.


Seems like, from a speculative perspective that'd work in regards to energy production and (maybe) global warming. The technology to create, control, and the hardest part, harness energy from, a tornado would be fascinating to see someone attempt to create.


From the Star article, this Vortex idea sounds absolutely ideal! Any physicists out there who can lend expertise as to how practical it is?

What a cool find.


While I agree that we shouldn't stop thinking of novel, if half-baked, ideas for solving humanity's problems, climate change is too urgent and complex a problem to leave our hope in some idea that may never come to fruition. As much as people hate to hear it, we would be better served to take a number of smaller, less dramatic steps now than to wait for a silver bullet that may never come. There are a number of steps whose marginal cost of abatement are lower than the marginal cost of polluting that we can and should implement immediately. I don't want to discourage creative thinking, but let's take care of the basics too.


I think it possible that Isaac Asimov might agree:

Bob L. Sturm

"Technology and human ingenuity have solved just about every problem we've faced so far..."

That is one perverted viewpoint. War is not a problem? Nuclear waste is not a problem? Just a matter of time, right?

I had higher expectations in this blog.

Brandon Patton

I think that if it could be done it would be good to try. If it works, good. If not, we will just go on and try to find another solution that does work.


"I'm pretty sure you didn't write posts this silly before you moved over to the NY Times."

"I had higher expectations in this blog."

I'm beginning to suspect some of these posters haven't read your book... :)

David Reese

While this seems like a cool idea, I'm deeply concerned for the possibilities of such a scientist becoming a super-villain. Doesn't this premise read like a Spider-Man comic? Just don't come crying to me when Doctor Tornado unleashes a reign of terror on us all.

Vortex engines indeed.


Hey Bob L. Sturm: no, "nuclear waste" is NOT a problem. Not yet, anyway. As of now - just like global warming - it's a "potential" problem. You Chicken Littles of the world need to calm down & recognize the difference between a potential probem & an actual problem. These will all be solved by man, with his infinite powers of ingenuity & resourcefullness.

And as for your comment on war being a problem... war is an answer to a problem, not a problem. It might be the WRONG answer, no doubt; but, nonetheless no nation in the history of the world entered into warfare without first deciding that war was the answer to it's problem.


"Technology and human ingenuity have solved just about every problem we've faced so far;"

I like Levitt - but this statement is just stupid, like we don't have oustanding problems that haven't been solved? - To assume that technology will magically somehow come to the rescue just when you need it is well... am irrational faith-based statement as a scientist in the US I have had quite enough of that the last 6 years - read collapse by Jared Diamond and then tell the Easter Islanders that after they cut down the last freaking tree on their island... I am sure they thought somehow their ingenuity would cause them to find a subsitute for wood and prevent soil erosion - instead they got a 90% population decline - problem solved. I find this quote a dangerous and ignorant mindset that is most often used to justify whatever we are currently doing...

Blue Sun

Now, now, Bob. Don't you realize that, until this global warming thing became a problem we were living in a technologically generated paradise, a veritable Engineered Eden?

There have indeed been many narrow and specific advances in the human condition through technology (a goodly proportion introduced new, even more complex and dangerous problems). But, we have not found technology up to the task of solving many of the basic problems both in human society or in the environment that surrounds us. We still have massive economic inequality even in the most technologically sophisticated nations, let alone among the desperately poor of the third world. Mass starvations around the world has yet to be conquered.

Technology has done nothing to lessen the frequency of wars. Instead, it has raised the capacity to kill masses of humans by orders of magnitude.

Technology has not given us more protection for out freedom and privacy, but has enabled our rulers to spy on us and build massive databases of information that can be exploited through highly sophisticated and abstruse data mining techniques.

Genetic research promises to bring great technological boons, but it is also a technology that can be (and is being) exploited to keep track of people and to extract ever greater amounts information from our chromosomes about the very nature of who we are that can be misused by government and corporate interests.

Hell, we can't even seem to make an electronic voting machine that can be trusted any further than I can spit a rat. I asked a friend who is an expert on electronic voting and was asked to address Congress and submit briefs to both the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts in 2000 what method she thought was the least tamperable and the most easily auditable. She said that the old mechanical pull-lever machines of 40 years ago were still the safest.

It simply flabbergasted me to see Steve Leavett include such a grossly naive, bordering on moronic, assertion in the blog.



Why all the sci-fi fantasies when the elimination of the incandescent bulb is something we can do immediately that we know will work?


I remember back in high school I worked at Winn Dixie with a kid who created a working model of a man-made tornado that would create electricity. He won a top science award from NASA that year. I've never heard from him since then, but I wonder if he is in on this.


"Technology and human ingenuity have solved just about every problem we've faced so far; there is no obvious reason why global warming shouldn't succumb as well"

That's the survivor bias

Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

Tornadoes'R-Us. I'm against it. Really, could global warming be so bad as to unleash the fury of those diabolical storms? What if some *terrorist* finds a way to create tornadoes too? Like some *twisted* finger of god slicing down through the sky to blow fury through the land!? (And not just Kansas)! No! This idea must be nixed! about a nice, drizzly, man-made rainstorm? Would that help? Or a peaceful, gentle, snowy delight of a storm, with the flakes wafting down ever so poetically?