Meteorology: A Short Circuit for Tornadoes

Though meteorologists now know enough about tornadoes to predict with reasonable accuracy when they are likely to occur, they are powerless to prevent the deadly funnels from forming and cutting their swaths of destruction. Help may be on its way. A NASA scientist has conducted laboratory tests suggesting that tornadoes are electrically driven phenomena that can be dissipated simply by shorting them out.

Physicist Vernon Rossow likens a tornado to the rotor of an electrostatic motor, which turns as it transfers electric charges between a positive and a negative electrode. Much the same happens, he theorizes, when a region of positively...

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