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Ted Fujita

Ted Fujita

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was a prominent severe storms researcher. His research at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 on severe thunderstorm
A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm, a lightning storm, thundershower or simply a storm is a form of weather characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth's atmosphere known as thunder. The meteorologically assigned cloud type associated with the...

s, tornado
A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology in a wider...

es, hurricanes and typhoons revolutionized knowledge of each.


Fujita was born in Kitakyūshū, Fukuoka Prefecture
Fukuoka Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on Kyūshū Island. The capital is the city of Fukuoka.- History :Fukuoka Prefecture includes the former provinces of Chikugo, Chikuzen, and Buzen....

, Japan. He studied at Kyushu Institute of Technology
Kyushu Institute of Technology
is one of the 87 national universities in Japan. Located in Fukuoka Prefecture on the island of Kyūshū, it is dedicated to education and research in the fields of science and technology...

 and was an associate professor there until 1953 when he was invited to the University of Chicago after a professor there became interested in his research.


Fujita is recognized as the discoverer of downburst
A downburst is created by an area of significantly rain-cooled air that, after reaching ground level, spreads out in all directions producing strong winds. Unlike winds in a tornado, winds in a downburst are directed outwards from the point where it hits land or water...

s and microburst
A microburst is a very localized column of sinking air, producing damaging divergent and straight-line winds at the surface that are similar to, but distinguishable from, tornadoes, which generally have convergent damage. There are two types of microbursts: wet microbursts and dry microbursts...

s and also developed the Fujita scale
Fujita scale
The Fujita scale , or Fujita-Pearson scale, is a scale for rating tornado intensity, based primarily on the damage tornadoes inflict on human-built structures and vegetation...

, which differentiates tornado intensity and links tornado damage with wind speed.

Fujita's best-known contributions were in tornado research—he was often called "Mr. Tornado" by his associates and by the media. Much of what we now know about tornadoes was either discovered or advanced by his efforts. In addition to the Fujita scale, he was a pioneer in the development of tornado overflight and damage survey techniques, which he used to study and map the paths of the 2 tornadoes that hit Lubbock, Texas on May 11, 1970. He established the value of photometric analysis of tornado pictures and films, to establish wind speeds at various heights at the surface of tornado vortices. Fujita was also the first to widely study the meteorological phenomenon of the downburst, which can pose serious danger to aircraft. As a result of his work, pilot training worldwide routinely uses techniques he pioneered to provide instruction to students.

In another major addition to tornado knowledge, he was instrumental in developing the concept of multiple vortex tornado
Multiple vortex tornado
A multiple-vortex tornado is a tornado that contains several vortices rotating around, inside of, and as part of the main vortex. These multiple vortices are somewhat similar to eyewall mesovortices found in intense tropical cyclones...

es, which feature multiple small funnels (suction vortices
A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...

) rotating within a larger parent cloud. His work established that, far from being rare events as was previously believed, most powerful tornadoes were composed of multiple vortices. He also advanced the concept of mini-swirls in intensifying tropical cyclones.

A master of mesoscale
Mesoscale meteorology
Mesoscale meteorology is the study of weather systems smaller than synoptic scale systems but larger than microscale and storm-scale cumulus systems. Horizontal dimensions generally range from around 5 kilometers to several hundred kilometers...

 analysis throughout his career, it was his independent development of advanced techniques as a young scientist in Japan that prompted Horace Byers to invite him to the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 upon overviewing his work. He continued to advance mesoscale meteorology with a keen ability to glean details and synthesize vast information in developing revolutionary theories.

The American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) symposium held in January of 2000 honored the life work of Fujita. Usually, these symposia are organized posthumously, but of such great importance was the work of Fujita, this one was approved in October of 1998 by the AMS Council while he was still alive, although he died one month later.

Further reading

  • Grazulis, Thomas P. (1994). A Guide To: Tornado Video Classics II: The Magnificent Puzzle. The Tornado Project of Environmental Films, St. Johnsbury, VT. p. 37-78
  • Rosenfeld, Jeff (May/Jun 1999). "Mr. Tornado: The life and career of Ted Fujita". Weatherwise
    For the energy services company WeatherWise, see Fixed billWeatherwise is a magazine founded by David M. Ludlum and was published by Heldref Publications but now is published by Taylor & Francis Group...

    , pp 18


  • Fujita, Tetsuya Theodore (1992). Memoirs of an Effort to Unlock the Mystery of Severe Storms. WRL Research Paper Number 239.

External links