Ted Fujita


Ted Fujita
Thetsuya Theodore Fijuta.jpg
Born(1920-10-23)October 23, 1920
Sonemura, Kiku-gun, Fukuoka Prefecture, Empire of Japan
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]

Ted Fujita died in his Chicago home on November 19, 1998. The cause of death remains undisclosed.[11] After his death, 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[12] 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.[13] He was the subject of Mr. Tornado,[14] a documentary film that originally aired on PBS American Experience on May 19, 2020.[15]

World War II

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.[16] 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.[17]


  1. ^ "A Tribute to the Works of T. Theodore Fujita". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. American Meteorological Society. 82 (1). 1 January 2001. doi:10.1175/1520-0477-82.1.fmi.
  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 September 4, 2019.
  4. ^ — (February 1971). "Proposed Characterization of Tornadoes and Hurricanes by Area and Intensity". Department of Geophysical Sciences. Satellite and Mesometeorology Research Project. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago. 91. hdl:10605/261875.
  5. ^ "Tornado researcher Ted Fujita died in 1998". Weather. USA Today. Chicago: Gannett. Associated Press. March 16, 2005. Archived from the original on September 12, 2005. Retrieved June 17, 2021. Fujita, known as "Mr. Tornado" after developing the international standard for measuring tornado severity, died Thursday after a lengthy illness.
  6. ^ "NWS Lubbock, TX Local Weather Events: The 1970 Lubbock Tornado". weather.gov/lub. Lubbock, Texas. National Weather Service. Archived from the original on May 11, 2021. Retrieved May 17, 2021. The tornado killed 26 people and injured more than 1500 along its 8.5 mile track, while covering about 15 square miles of Lubbock. Dr. Theodore "Ted" Fujita later determined that all but one of the deaths (96%) occurred along the path of suction spots (also known as suction swaths and suction marks). These suction spots, which create localized areas of increased damage, are created when smaller-scale vortices develop and rotate around the larger parent tornado forming a multiple-vortex tornado.
  7. ^ McDonald, James R. (1 January 2001). "T. Theodore Fujita: His Contribution to Tornadic Knowledge Through Damage Documentation and the Fujita Scale". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. American Meteorological Society. 82 (1): 63–72. Bibcode:2001BAMS...82...63M. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(2001)000<0063:TTFHCT>2.3.CO;2. eISSN 1520-0477. ISSN 0003-0007.
  8. ^ Wilson, James W.; Wakimoto, Roger M. (1 January 2001). "The Discovery of the Downburst: T. T. Fujita's Contribution". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. American Meteorological Society. 82 (1): 79–62. Bibcode:2001BAMS...82...49W. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(2001)082<0049:TDOTDT>2.3.CO;2. eISSN 1520-0477. ISSN 0003-0007.
  9. ^ Dorschner, John (22 August 1993). "One year later, Andrew's scars remain". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. ISSN 1068-624X. Retrieved 15 June 2021 – via Newspaper.com. Fujita found winds within winds within winds. Mini-swirls and microburts and swatchs danced madly within the powerful eye wall, smashing some neighborhoods, then skating away, leaving other subdivisions with comparatively little damage.
  10. ^ "Wind expert says Andrew generated small superwinds". United Press International. Tampa, Florida. 20 May 1993. Retrieved 15 June 2021. Ted Fujita, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, spoke Wednesday at the Seventh Annual Governor's Hurricane Conference in Tampa. Fujita said the newly discovered superwinds probably accounted for only a small portion of the 35,000 homes that were destroyed by the hurricane in south Dade County Aug. 24. The storm caused $16.5 billion in insured losses in the county.
  11. ^ "TETSUYA 'TED' FUJITA DIES". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  12. ^ Symposium on The Mystery of Severe Storms: A Tribute to the Work of T. Theodore Fujita. Long Beach, CA. 2000.
  13. ^ Rosenfeld, Jeff (2 April 2010). "Mr. Tornado: The Life and Career of Ted Fujita". Weatherwise. Taylor & Francis. 52 (3): 18–25. doi:10.1080/00431679909604293. ISSN 0043-1672.
  14. ^ "Mr. Tornado | American Experience | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved July 17, 2021.
  15. ^ Rossi, Michael (19 May 2020). American Experience: Mr. Tornado (DVD). WGBH-TV/Rossi Films. ASIN B0851LK9FR. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  16. ^ Daley, Ted (April 15, 2010). "12: Apocalypse Never". Apocalypse Never. Rutgers University Press. pp. 239–241. ISBN 978-0813546612. OCLC 793581455. Retrieved June 15, 2021 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "Tetsuya "Ted" Fujita, 1920–1998". www-news.uchicago.edu. Retrieved July 17, 2021.


  • — (1 August 1970). "The Lubbock tornadoes: A Study of Suction Spots". Weatherwise. 23 (4): 161–173. doi:10.1080/00431672.1970.9932888. ISSN 0043-1672.
  • 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]
  • — (22 June 1976). Photogrammetric Analysis of Tornadoes - F. History of Suction Vortices. Institute for Disaster Research. Proceedings of the Symposium on Tornadoes: Assessment of Knowledge and Implications for Man. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University. pp. 78–88. hdl:10605/262139.
  • 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


  • — (1 October 1992). "Memoirs of Effort to Unlock the Mystery of Severe Storms during the 50 Years, 1942–1992". Wind Research Laboratory – Department of Geophysical Sciences. WRL Research Paper Number 239 (in English and Japanese). University of Chicago (239). hdl:10605/262046.

External links

  • Tetsuya Fujita, 78, Inventor of Tornado Scale (The New York Times obituary)
  • Dr. Tetsuya Theodore Fujita (The Tornado Project, 1998)
  • Who was the legendary 'Mr. Tornado'? (AccuWeather, May 18, 2021)
  • Oral History Interview with T.T. Fujita (interview by Richard Rotunno on February 2, 1988)
  • Tornadoes and Severe Weather – In Memory of Tetsuya T. Fujita (Dr. Kazuya Fujita)
  • Mr. Tornado: Tetsuya Theodore "Ted" Fujita (Bio by Keith C. Heidorn)
  • Fujita publications (Texas Tech University)
  • Fujita archival records (Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University)
  • Video of presentation at Tornado Symposium III, 4 April 1991
  • Ted Fujita at IMDb
  • Ted Fujita at Find a Grave