What is the Fujita Scale and How Does it Help Storm Chasers?

The Fujita Scale is a measure of the strength or intensity of a tornado. In other words, it tells you how intense a wind would have to be to move a cardboard box, bricks, or worse.

It is tough to determine what magnitude of wind level would knock over a brick wall. But through extensive research, the Fujita Scale is able to help us make that assertion.

The birth of the Fujita Scale

Ted Fujita, also known as “Mr. Tornado,” developed the Fujita Scale in 1972. It was a collaborative effort with the head of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center, Allen Pearson.

It was later updated in 1973 to account for path length and width of tornadoes. Eventually, the Fujita Scale was adopted in most areas of the world. More recently in 2007, the scale was updated and renamed to the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This new scale better matches wind speeds to the level of damage caused by tornadoes.

Scale parameters

Tornadoes are each assigned a level of severity on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, ranging from EF0 to EF6, which is the highest storm level.

Here are the basic parameters that determine where a tornado falls on the scale:

  • EF0: 40-72 mph winds, light damage to chimneys, tree branches, shallow-rooted trees and signboards
  • EF1: 73-112 mph winds, moderate damage to roofs, mobile homes, moving vehicles and attached garages
  • EF2: 113-157 mph winds, significant damage to roofs, mobile homes, boxcars, large trees and high-rise windows
  • EF3: 158-206 mph winds, severe damage to roofs, well-constructed homes, trains, trees and heavy cars
  • EF4: 207-260 mph winds, devastating damage to well-constructed homes, structures with weak foundations and cars
  • EF5: 261-318 mph winds, causing incredible damage to strong frame houses and skyscrapers, creating car-sized missiles that fly through the air

A scale of damage

Ultimately, the Fujita Scale is meant to better communicate a tornado’s severity to the layman. Because it can be difficult to understand how severe a storm is based on wind speed, the scale allows storm chasers and other citizens to know what kind of structural damage a storm causes.

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Written by
Johnny Rodgers
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Written by Johnny Rodgers