Ted Fujita

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Tetsuya Theodore Fujita
Thetsuya Theodore Fijuta.jpg
Born(1920-10-23)October 23, 1920
DiedNovember 19, 1998(1998-11-19) (aged 78)
CitizenshipJapan and United States (1968)
Alma materKyushu Institute of Technology (B.S., 1943)
University of Tokyo (D.Sc., 1950)
Known fortornadoes, tornadic storm morphology, Fujita scale, multiple-vortex tornadoes, downbursts, microbursts, mesoscale meteorology
ChildrenKazuya Fujita
AwardsOrder of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star (1991)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Chicago
ThesisAnalytical Study of Typhoons (1952)
Doctoral advisorShigekata Syono
Doctoral studentsRoger M. Wakimoto, Gregory S. Forbes

Tetsuya Theodore Fujita (/fˈtɑː/; FOO-jee-tah) (藤田 哲也, Fujita Tetsuya, October 23, 1920 – November 19, 1998) was a Japanese-American meteorologist whose research primarily focused on severe weather. His research at the University of Chicago on severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons revolutionized the knowledge of each. Although he is best known for creating the Fujita scale of tornado intensity and damage.[1][2], he also discovered downbursts and microbursts, and was an instrumental figure in advancing modern understanding of many severe weather phenomena and how they affect people and communities, especially through his work exploring the relationship between wind speed and damage.


Fujita was born in the village of Sone, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, an area that is now part of the city of Kitakyushu. He studied and taught at Kyushu Institute of Technology. In 1953 he was invited to the University of Chicago by Horace R. Byers, who had become interested in Fujita's research, particularly his independent discovery of the cold-air downdraft. Fujita remained at the University of Chicago until his retirement in 1990.[3]


Fujita is recognized as the discoverer of downbursts and microbursts and also developed the Fujita scale,[4] 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.[5] In addition to developing the Fujita scale, Fujita was a pioneer in the development of tornado overflight and damage survey techniques, which he used to study and map[6] the paths of the two 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.[7] 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, in particular on Project NIMROD, pilot training worldwide routinely uses techniques he pioneered to provide instruction to students.[8]

Fujita was also largely involved in developing the concept of multiple vortex tornadoes, which feature multiple small funnels (suction vortices) 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.[9][10]

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) held the "Symposium on The Mystery of Severe Storms: A Tribute to the Work of T. Theodore Fujita" during its 80th Annual Meeting in January 2000[11] and also published a special issue of its flagship journal, the Bulletin in January 2001.[1] After Fujita died, Storm Track magazine released a special November 1998 issue, "A Tribute To Dr. Ted Fujita"[2] and Weatherwise published "Mr. Tornado: The life and career of Ted Fujita" as an article in its May/June 1999 issue.[12] He was the subject of Mr. Tornado, a documentary film that originally aired on American Experience on May 19, 2020.[13]

World War II[edit]

Fujita was residing in Kokura during World War II. Kokura was the primary target for the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb, but on the morning of August 9, 1945, the city was obscured by clouds and smoke from the neighboring city of Yahata, which had been firebombed the day before. As a result, the bomb was dropped on the secondary target, Nagasaki.[14] Studying the damage caused by the nuclear explosions contributed to Fujita's understanding of downbursts and microbursts as "starbursts" of wind hitting the Earth's surface and spreading out.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "A Tribute to the Works of T. Theodore Fujita". Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 82 (1). 2001.
  2. ^ a b Marshall, Tim; et al. (1998). "A Tribute to Dr. Ted Fujita". Storm Track. 22 (1).
  3. ^ "Tetsuya "Ted" Fujita, 1920-1998". University of Chicago News Office. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  4. ^ Fujita, T.T. (1971). "Proposed Characterization of Tornadoes and Hurricanes by Area and Intensity". Satellite and Mesometeorology Research Paper 91. Chicago, IL: Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago.
  5. ^ USA Today 2005-03-16
  6. ^ The Lubbock Tornado: May 11, 1970
  7. ^ McDonald, James R. (2001). "T. Theodore Fujita: His Contribution to Tornadic Knowledge Through Damage Documentation and the Fujita Scale". Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 82 (1): 63–72. Bibcode:2001BAMS...82...63M. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(2001)000<0063:TTFHCT>2.3.CO;2.
  8. ^ Wilson, James W.; R. M. Wakimoto (2001). "The Discovery of the Downburst: T.T. Fujita's Contribution". Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 82 (1): 49–62. Bibcode:2001BAMS...82...49W. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(2001)082<0049:TDOTDT>2.3.CO;2.
  9. ^ Dorschner, John (August 22, 1993). "One year later, Andrew's scars remain". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  10. ^ "Wind expert says Andrew generated small superwinds". United Press International. May 20, 1993. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  11. ^ Symposium on The Mystery of Severe Storms: A Tribute to the Work of T. Theodore Fujita. Long Beach, CA. 2000.
  12. ^ Rosenfeld, Jeff (1999). "Mr. Tornado: The life and career of Ted Fujita". Weatherwise. 52 (3): 18–25. doi:10.1080/00431679909604293.
  13. ^ Mr. Tornado (American Experience) – Rossi Films. Retrieved May 19, 2020
  14. ^ Daley, Ted, "Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World", Rutgers University Press, 2010. p. 240


  • Fujita, T. T., 1970b. The Lubbock tornadoes: a study of suction spots: Weatherwise, v. 23(4), p. 160-173. [published August, 1970] (first issued as SMRP 88)
  • Shanahan, J. A., and Fujita, T. T., 1971c. The Lubbock tornadoes and Fujita suction vortices. Presented at October 18–22, 1971, ASCE Annual and National Environmental Engineering meeting, St. Louis. [October, 1971]
  • Fujita, T. T., 1976g. Photogrammetric analysis of tornadoes, F. History of suction vortices, in Peterson, R. E., ed., Proceedings of the Symposium on Tornadoes, Assessment of Knowledge and Implications for Man: Institute for Disaster Research, Texas Technological University, Lubbock, p. 78-88. [June, 1976] (also issued as SMRP 140e)
  • Fujita, T. T., and Forbes, G. S., 1976f. Photogrammetric analysis of tornadoes, D. Three scales of motion involving tornadoes, in Peterson, R. E., ed., Proceedings of the Symposium on Tornadoes, Assessment of Knowledge and Implications for Man: Institute for Disaster Research, Texas Technological University, Lubbock, p. 53-57. [June, 1976] (also issued as SMRP 140c)

Further reading[edit]

  • 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


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

External links[edit]