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Tetsuya Theodore "Ted" Fujita (藤田 哲也, Fujita Tetsuya, October 23, 1920 – November 19, 1998) was a prominent Japanese-American severe storms researcher. His research at the University of Chicago on severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons revolutionized the knowledge of each. Although he is probably 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.

Tetsuya Theodore Fujita
Thetsuya Theodore Fijuta.jpg
Born(1920-10-23)October 23, 1920
DiedNovember 19, 1998(1998-11-19) (aged 78)
ResidenceJapan and United States
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



Fujita was born in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. He studied at Kyushu Institute of Technology and was an associate professor there until 1953, when he was invited to the University of Chicago on the invitation of Horace R. Byers who had become interested in his research, particularly his independent discovery of the cold-air downdraft.


Fujita is recognized as the discoverer of downbursts and microbursts and also developed the Fujita scale,[3] 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.[4] 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[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8][9]

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[10] 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.[11]

World War IIEdit

Fujita in 1945 was residing in Kokura, the primary target of the first nuclear strike in human history by the plutonium bomb (nicknamed Fat Man) and the secondary target of the first nuclear strike by the uranium one. On 6 August 1945, the uranium bomb was dropped on the primary target at Hiroshima. Three days later on 9 August 1945, the primary target was Kokura. However, due to cloudy weather and smoke from the neighboring city of Yawata the plutonium bomb was delivered on the secondary target, the city of Nagasaki. From this, the phrase "Kokura's Luck" came about, referring to when a great tragedy is avoided when the person or party is not even aware of the tragedy to begin with.[citation needed] Furthermore, studying the damage caused by the nuclear blasts contributed to his understanding of downbursts and microbursts as "starbursts" of wind hitting the Earth's surface and spreading out.


  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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ USA Today 2005-03-16
  5. ^ The Lubbock Tornado: May 11, 1970
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Dorschner, John (August 22, 1993). "One year later, Andrew's scars remain". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  9. ^ "Wind expert says Andrew generated small superwinds". United Press International. May 20, 1993. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  10. ^ Symposium on The Mystery of Severe Storms: A Tribute to the Work of T. Theodore Fujita. Long Beach, CA. 2000.
  11. ^ Rosenfeld, Jeff (1999). "Mr. Tornado: The life and career of Ted Fujita". Weatherwise. 52 (3): 18–25. doi:10.1080/00431679909604293.


  • 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 readingEdit

  • 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 linksEdit