Suppose we "ignore" collateral damage, how much missile(s) warhead yield needs to be to stop/destroy different categories of tornado ?

  • $\begingroup$ U assume we can blew a tornado apart or intimidate it with a deadly force, I'll bet both options would only make the tornado angrier! $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 3:19

3 Answers 3


According to this site, a typical tornado has a kinetic energy of 3 x 10^12 J = 3 x 10^19 ergs (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~ears5/handouts/TornadoEnergy.html)

The Atomic Rockets "Boom Table" (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/usefultables.php) gives us the equivalent amount of energy in a weapon: 1 X 10^19 J is roughly 3 Gt (three billion tons of TNT). By comparison, the Tsar Bomba was 50 Mt, and the largest ever US nuclear test; Castle Bravo, was 15 Mt.

Castle Bravo

Generally speaking, I would suggest that the proposed cure is somewhat worse than the problem.

  • $\begingroup$ Here is some calculation. 3Gt=3000Mt/50Mt Tsar = 60 warheads. So using mirv en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… there can be 14 warheads per missile. 60/14 ~= 5 Trident II missiles :) $\endgroup$
    – Ivan
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ The Tsar Bomba was too big to be MIRVed. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 6:56
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ You've confused Joules and Ergs. $3\times 10^{12}$ J is about a kilotonne. So you might blow out a tornado with a smallish nuke. I would not count on it though. Thunderstorms suck in hot air which rises and twists into a vortex. A nuke would inject more hot rising air. It might add to the tornado instead of disrupting it! $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ "Somewhat" worse? $\endgroup$
    – iAdjunct
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 15:02

The trick here isn't about how much energy is applied, it is more about where and how it is applied.

Read this article and it gives a good introduction to how tornados work: http://thevane.gawker.com/what-is-a-supercell-thunderstorm-1564133584

Here is the weather radar image of a Tornado

Weather Radar

And here is the supercell that forms it: Supercell

The trick to "killing" the tornado isn't nuking it directly, it's about breaking apart the cycle that feeds it. It's by nature an unstable system so injecting energy into the downdrafts or cutting off energy from the updrafts would be the way to go about stopping it.

Unfortunately the storm systems are just not well enough understood to say just how much energy is needed, but it's far lower than that contained in the storm. A relatively small amount of energy in the right place will have effects right across the process.

However putting more energy into the wrong place would actually make the storm stronger, such as by fueling the updrafts.

  • $\begingroup$ A single medium-sized nuke in the rear-flank downdraft should disrupt the tornado with the fireball's updraft. Problem is, you'll probably need to repeat it every 15 minutes or so, because the underlying conditions that formed the tornado are still there. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 2:47

Hmmm... on its own, a missile or bomb would not affect it. Tornados are vortexes produced by wind. Perhaps the force of a sufficient explosion may counter these winds and disrupt the vortex, ending the tornado.

I hope it's not to close to civilization, because I think the explosion will need to be very powerful.


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