|Died||November 19, 1998 (aged 78)|
|Citizenship||Japan and United States (1968)|
|Alma mater||Kyushu Institute of Technology (B.S., 1943)|
University of Tokyo (D.Sc., 1950)
|Known for||tornadoes, tornadic storm morphology, Fujita scale, multiple-vortex tornadoes, downbursts, microbursts, mesoscale meteorology|
|Awards||Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star (1991)|
|Institutions||University of Chicago|
|Thesis||Analytical Study of Typhoons (1952)|
|Doctoral advisor||Shigekata Syono|
|Doctoral students||Roger M. Wakimoto, Gregory S. Forbes|
Tetsuya Theodore Fujita (//; 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, 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.
Fujita's best-known contributions were in tornado research; he was often called "Mr. Tornado" by his associates and by the media. 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 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. 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.
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.
Ted Fujita died in his Chicago home on November 19, 1998. The cause of death remains undisclosed. 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 Storm Track magazine released a special November 1998 issue, "A Tribute To Dr. Ted Fujita" and Weatherwise published "Mr. Tornado: The life and career of Ted Fujita" as an article in its May/June 1999 issue. He was the subject of Mr. Tornado, a documentary film that originally aired on PBS American Experience on May 19, 2020.
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. 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.
Fujita, known as "Mr. Tornado" after developing the international standard for measuring tornado severity, died Thursday after a lengthy illness.
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.
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.
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.