Why do windmills cause earthquakes but not skyscrapers? A lot of people asked that question when I first postulated the sail push theory of windmill-caused earthquakes.
Simply stated, all these windmills act together like a giant sail that catches the wind and moves the tectonic plate, causing earthquakes.
That’s the sail push theory. And it met much ridicule in the comments section from a mob of angry liberals, presuming to be an ad hoc Royal Academy of Sciences, (which itself has a been a consistent opponent to major scientific breakthroughs.)
One person mockingly said that according to my theory, Manhattan should flip over.
Don’t be stupid. Only Democrat Congressmen think islands can capsize. (see here) I’m a Tea Party Republican.
Here’s five good reasons why skyscrappers don’t generally cause earthquakes, though windmills do:
1. Manhattan isn’t that windy. Look at the umbrellas.
As a Bostonian, what stands out to me about New York is not the organized grid of streets, or the never-ending hustle and bustle, but the uncanny usage of umbrellas.
Every time it rains, the sidewalks of lower Manhattan are covered by a canopy of Umbrellas. Everyone carries an umbrella.
In Boston if you carry an umbrella, the wind will whip it inside out, tear it out of your hand, and spear someone’s eye. That’s a huge liability. Instead, we protect our shabby clothes from the rain with L.L. Bean windproof and waterproof outerwear.
Boston is a windy city. New York is not. In fact, that attribute allowed it to become the dominant American shipping port of the 19th century.
The terrain around Manhattan shelters it from wind. Think about it. When you drive onto the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey, you climb a hill. But that same level bridge is an elevated highway in New York.
And when you drive up the Major Deegan highway, to your left is the waters of the Hudson. To your right are the scuzzy hills of the Bronx.
So the elevation on both sides of Manhattan shelter the skyscrapers from really catching the wind to produce earthquakes. In other words, if the wind is Evil Knieval, the New Jersey Palisades are the up ramp, the Bronx are the down ramp. The skyscrapers are junk school buses.
“Ok,” you say, “That’s fine for Manhattan. What about every other city.”
That brings me to point two:
2. Most cities don’t have that many sky scrapers.
After I’d go back to Boston from New York, I’d tell this joke. As we’d approach the city on the Mass Pike, when the skyline first pokes above the hills, I’d turn to the guys and say, “Look, there’s Boston’s skyscrapers. Both of them.”
That joke’s a total riot because you’re struck by how rinky-dink Boston is after spending some time in New York. There’s only two skyscrapers: the Prudential tower, and the John Hancock building.
And most cities are like that. They’re technically cities based on population, not architecture.
Furthermore, out west, cities are notorious for urban sprawl. Consider Los Angeles, which has roughly the same population as New York, but it’s spread out in one and two story buildings for miles across the San Fernando valley.
Some of you are ready to scream at me. “Chicago! What about the Windy City?”
Yup. Good question. That leads to point three:
3. Cites are aerodynamic.
Before the winds whipped up on the plains of Northern Illinois can reach the skyscrapers the Inner Loop, they must pass through Chicago’s suburbia, made famous as the setting of numerous 80’s movies.
The gradual transition from the flat, rural farmlands to the trees and houses of suburbia breaks up wind speeds. Then the crescendo of building hight through denser and denser urban area ramps the wind upward, directing it over the tops of buildings.
In the city center, skyscrapers stand in clusters, each one shielding each other from blasts of steady wind. All together, Chicago itself stands as one aerodynamic unit.
Listen, my buddy Tom is from Chicago. We lived in the same building together in Boston and he said Boston is windier than Chicago. The “Windy City” is just a nickname. Are there really more beans in Boston or large apples in New York?
Right now a lot of you are struggling to come up with objections to my sail-push theory. You’re probly like, “Well the wind hits the tall buildings on the edge of the cities. Where are their earthquakes?”
You guys don’t give up.
4. Cities aren’t that big.
Look, there aren’t enough tall buildings on the edge any city to match the force of the sail-push generated by an average windfarm.
I know that you say you’re from the big city, but your big city is only big compared to the small bodunk town you won’t admit you’re actually from. (I’m looking at you, hipsters in Brooklyn.)
According to the internet, Manhattan is 14,694.4 acres.
Compare that to one single solitary windfarm in Oklahoma, the Chisholm View Wind Project. According to tradewindenergy.com, that farm encompasses apporximately 45,000 acres.
I punched the numbers in my Casio calculator watch. That friggin’ windmill forest is three times the size of Manhattan island.
How many other North American cities are built as tall and wide as New York? None. How many of those are built where it’s windy? Less than none.
Okay. But here’s one windfarm of many which are bigger than Uptown, Downtown, and Midtown– and it’s built where it’s windy.
And that leads me to the fifth and final reason skyscrapers don’t cause earthquakes like windmills:
5. They build windmills in windy places.
We build skyscrapers in cities. And as much as we like to think we plan cities, they actually just happen around commercial activites. Wind does not factor into their construction.
But when they build windfarms, they purposefully find the spot with the largest sustained streams of wind at 150 feet. (They say 30 meters, but we don’t use the metric system around here.)
So it’s possible that a single windmill takes on more wind than a city skyscraper. And it’s quite likely that a windfarm takes on more wind than a city all together.
Wait! Is that factoid true?
Well, is any of this true? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. We should put a moratorium on windmills until we can investigate.