I. COMMENTARY by Tim Marshall

I was one of the lucky ones who got to meet Dr. Fujita. As a small boy interested in severe weather, I was brought up in Chicago not too far from where Dr. Fujita lived and worked. I first became familiar with him after the Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak on April 11, 1965. Thirty-six tornadoes struck the upper Midwest killing 253 people. A violent tornado (later rated F-4) hit Crystal Lake near Chicago killing four people. This tornado was only one county from where I lived. The damage on television and in the newspapers made a lasting impression. I remembered that a violent tornado hit MARSHALL County in Indiana that day. Spiral ground markings were documented by Dr. Fujita and he theorized there were smaller tornadoes rotating around a common center, going up and down, like horses on a merry-go-round. That was "cool" to this nine year old who was already interested in tornadoes.

Then, it was my turn to be in the front row. On April 21, 1967 our town of Oak Lawn, IL was hit by an violent tornado (later rated F-4) and I got to see the damage first hand. Thirty-three people lost their lives. This tornado continued northeast passing a few miles south of the University of Chicago before heading out over Lake Michigan. Because of that tornado, I read everything I could get my hands on that had the "T" word on it. Little did I know I was on a path to meet Dr. Fujita. In 1971, Dr. Fujita developed his F-scale for rating tornadoes. I was in high school at the time and soon became familiar with some of his publications, especially the 1965 Palm Sunday damage survey which appeared in Monthly Weather Review and his damage survey of the Lubbock, Tx tornadoes which appeared in Weatherwise Magazine. To this teenager, Dr. Fujita was a celebrity, second only to Harry Volkman, the local television meteorologist on WGN-TV.

In 1974, I headed off to Northern Illinois University to major in meteorology. I also joined the National and local student chapters of the American Meteorological Society -and just in time. On November 12, 1974, our student chapter visited Dr. Fujita at the University of Chicago. Dr. Fujita lectured to us on the Super Outbreak which occurred on April 3rd and 4th earlier that year. He showed us numerous damage slides; I wrote ten pages of (single-spaced) notes during his lecture -which I still have. I was amazed to see thousands of trees flattened like grass over the mountains. I actually got to talk to Dr. Fujita -asking him several questions. Fellow classmate, Jeff Hedges, even photographed Dr. Fujita and gave the photo to me which appears herein. I couldnít believe that I met and talked to this icon. As a result, Jeff Hedges, Rich Smrz, and I decided to check out the Super Outbreak damage over Christmas break -so we drove down through Kentucky and Tennessee viewing some of the tornado damage. We also visited the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville and spent one week copying all the weather observations (by hand) from April 11, 1965, April 21, 1967, and April 3-4, 1974. We studied these events in great detail.

I wrote to Dr. Fujita several times requesting ALL of his color maps. He was "the best" cartographer to me. His office sent me an entire packet of color maps which I promptly displayed in my dorm room at college. I even took a course in cartography - so I could make maps like Dr. Fujita. Dr. Fujita sent me a signed letter, dated April 30, 1976, in which he sent a map of U.S. Tornadoes 1930-1974. The next year, I got to meet several people who worked with Dr. Fujita and presented lectures to our student chapter including student Tom Umenhoffer (April 16, 1975), Alan Pearson in charge of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (October 14, 1975), student Ed Pearl (November 18, 1975), and Dr. Horace Byers (December 2, 1975), the mentor of Dr. Fujita.

In 1978, I headed to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Tx to begin my graduate work. The Institute for Disaster Research was based there and the staff worked with Dr. Fujita on damage surveys. I volunteered to be of service. In June, 1980, I was selected to survey tornado damage at Grand Island. The tornado damage paths to be quite complex. I was amazed to see how Dr. Fujita was able to figure them out in incredible detail. He must have been an engineer turned meteorologist -and he was. So, in an effort to learn this detail, I went on to become an engineer. Thanks Dr. Fujita. You were an inspiration.


The 3rd Annual 1999 Severe Storms and Doppler Radar Conference will be held March 26-28, 1999 at the University Park Holiday Inn in Des Moines, IA. The conference begins at 1:30 pm on the 26th and runs until noon on the 28th. This conference is geared towards anyone with an interest in weather. Spotters, forecasters, emergency managers, storm chasersÖeveryone is encouraged to attend! Friday evening is chaser night, so bring your videos or pictures to show. The conference will be held at a different place this year: The University Park Holiday Inn. There is a free shuttle from the Des Moines International Airport so it will not be necessary to rent a car. There are plenty of fine eating establishments within walking distance of the hotel. There are also a few fast food places for those people on a budget. The University Park Holiday Inn has a large atrium area so you can easily mingle with the hundreds of other weather-minded people at the conference. Plus it has a waterfall and lush greenery! Rooms at this four star hotel are $68 and can hold up to four people. They come furnished with coffee makers and even data ports. For more information about the logistics of the meeting, mail me (Paul Vincent Craven) at

The College of DuPage will be sponsoring the second annual Severe Weather Conference for Undergraduates! Because of great success last year, we have decided to do another and incorporating some lessons learned from last year. The conference will be held Thursday, April 8 through Saturday April 10 at the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (about 25 miles west of Chicago). Student rates will be a maximum of $70 for students (slightly more for non-students) and will include break refreshments, two lunches and a dinner banquet. Local hotels have offered some rate discounts for attendees of the conference. Changes to this year's program include more hands-on activities, more time to interact with other students and workshop presenters, and a Thursday night video and slides program featuring attendees' experiences in storm chasing. We will also provide on-line material for attendees to peruse ahead of time, helping provide prerequisite information to help everyone receive the maximum benefit form the conference. Some teachers may want to take advantage of some of the material in courses they will be offering in forecasting or mesoscale meteorology. This will be a great chance to come together and learn from some experts in severe storms and mesoscale meteorology. This year's speakers will include a top researchers and operational meteorologists from around the country who will share cutting edge information about severe weather forecasting, research and observation. A tentative list has already been assembled and will be announced as soon as confirmation can be made. Mark it on your calendar! Also, the 1998 Conference was videotaped and can be purchased for your personal library. Contact Dr. Paul Sirvatka for more information, email: Office: (630) 942-2118; Lab: (630) 942-2590, COD Weather Lab: (630)-858-0032, Address: 425 22nd St. Glen Ellyn, IL 60137.

The 1999 TESSA National Meeting will be held on Saturday, April 17th at the Plano Civic Center. Guest speakers will be Chuck Doswell, Alan Moller and Gene Moore. Details are available on the Internet on the TESSA News page at, including a map to the site.


Chuck Doswell writes: "I saw your letter in the last issue of ĎStorm Trackí and this motivated me to add an item to my Chasing FAQ list at: See specifically item #32 (the most recent one) and you might wish to follow the links it contains. Your concerns are quite valid, but no responsible chaser need feel any guilt over them, as I've tried to explain in that item. Mr. Marshall is correct in saying that for SOME, chasing HAS become a sport ... such people need to look carefully at themselves and their actions. By the way, I do NOT believe that making income from selling the images obtained from chasing is inherently evil ... for me, it helps by offsetting the large costs associated with chasing and gives me the opportunity to share my experiences with a larger audience. However, my best-selling item, by far, has been my video of a tornado in a town ... it is spectacularly filled with debris. Had this tornado occurred over open country, with no debris (and no one harmed by it), I'm pretty confident it would not be as big a seller as it is. I do not MAKE the market ... the market decides which of my videos to buy. Potential customers for tornado video feel that debris-filled tornadoes are more compelling visual images than tornadoes over open country. Just look at the pseudo-science documentaries on The Learning Channel or the Discovery Channel or the coverage of storms by the regular broadcast channels and judge for yourself. From my viewpoint, I prefer tornadoes in open country ... my quarry is the tornado itself, not the destruction. The market, especially the media market, seems to want to emphasize the destructive aspect of storms above all else. Perhaps that emphasis at least brings home the very real threats that such storms pose, but I am pretty confident the market is aiming at vicarious "thrill-seekers" ... the success of these programs suggests that this is a significant segment of the population (including, of course, some storm chasers) ... a pity, but something that remains far outside of my control."

Dan McCarthy, mesoscale meteorologist in Norman, writes: " I had the privilege to hear Dr. Fujita talk a few times, and an honor to meet him in 1994 when I invited him to speak to the Kansas City Chapter of the AMS. He was a brilliant and courageous pioneer in the field of tornado studies as well as the study of mesoscale meteorology. His ideas were not immediately accepted, but through perseverance proven to be the forefront of the science. His Fujita scale will be used for a long time, at least until someone develops something better. But to find his will and integrity will be hard shoes to fill. I find it coincidental that in this year when we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of tornado forecasting that we have lost the likes of Colonel Miller, Joe Galway, and now Dr. Ted Fujita."


Here is the Dr. Fujita sketch you requested. I enlarged and traced a picture of him receiving the "Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advance of Applied Meteorology" on February 28, 1988 at the 15th Conference on Severe Local Storms in Baltimore, MD. I liked his pose here. Ironically, I may have taken that very picture. Roger Wakimoto, Greg Forbes, and his son were from your copy of his memoirs. His wifeís picture was from the May, 1983 Discover magazine in a great scene, where he laughingly responds to her attempts to teach him a lesson on the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument. I included the cat on the turntable, since itís a rare example of Tedís lighter moments. Also, in the lower right is his visit to the cemetery near Hiroshima noting the twisted, burned trees that suggested fire vortices. The tornado machine is from an early National Geographic article. Fargo, of course, was his first major storm study. Every scene has a specific meaning. Randy Zipser and I dropped by Chicago during one of our chases in the mid-70ís to visit Dr. Fujita. He graciously walked us through his offices and showed us the tornado machine as well as many prints. It was a highlight that year, and I will remember it always. What a great guy!


Dr. Ted Fujita was a giant in the field of mesometeorology. I had the distinguished pleasure of being a graduate student and later working as a researcher under him for a total of 8 years from 1980-1988. The years I worked under him were memorable, sometimes stressful, and extremely educational. I entered the University of Chicago as a graduate student in the Fall Quarter of 1980. I initially did not have a research assistantship at the University. However, that fall I was enrolled in Ted's mesometeorology course. He liked the way I analyzed maps and saw I had an interest in severe storms. From then on he supported me as a graduate student.

Many people will remember him for developing the F-scale, discovering suction vortices, identifying the supercell structure in his classic Fargo Tornadoes paper, and discovering downbursts. But he was also a master at photo analysis (photogrammetry). He could take an aerial photo you had of storm damage and in a matter of minutes would be able to ascertain the height of the aircraft, what direction you were looking, and what focal length you were using on your camera. His photographic knowledge was unsurpassed. He designed many of the camera copy stands, slide duplicators, and other camera equipment in the laboratory. He also designed the model tornado simulator. He would design the equipment and he would have his very experienced mechanic, Vincent Ankus, construct the apparatus. Before the age of satellite loops, Ted even designed a device called the "Fujita Wheel" where a National Weather Service Office could line up satellite photos on a wheel type device and actually see moving satellite imagery.

As a student and researcher, you not only learned about mesometeorology working under Ted, but also learned being a photographer, cartographer, and draftsman. I became interested in photography because of Ted. Whenever we received new equipment, he wanted to see how accurate the camera was. When I participated in the Joint Airport Weather Studies (JAWS) project in Colorado in 1982, I wanted to purchase a camera for myself. During the project, I was going to be a photographer at one of the radar sites. I bought a Canon AE-1 which was a popular camera at that time. I also bought a Canon 35-105 mm zoom lens. When he saw my camera, he wanted to look at it and inspect it. In a matter of minutes he was able to determine the lens I had bought had very little distortion at the wide angle setting. Being impressed, he and I were off to the camera shop in Boulder so that he could purchase the exact same camera and lens as mine for his use.

He demanded perfection in your work. As a student you had to be accurate in your analysis. He was also very meticulous in his detail of analysis. He not only was a master at photo analysis, but was a master at drafting. His figures in publications were masterpieces. He firmly believed that a figure be easily readable to the reader, that anyone should be immediately able to understand a drawing or figure upon first glance. If not, it was no good. When you were a student, you learned the drafting methods he used. To this day, I follow his advice when making figures or drawings for publication. It is hard for me to pin down my most memorable moments of working for Ted. There were many, such as working on field projects like JAWS or MIST (MIcroburst and Severe Thunderstorm Project), the camaraderie with fellow personnel and students such as Roger Wakimoto, Duane Stiegler, Jaime Tecson, and Jim Partacz, the opportunity to conduct aerial damage surveys, or working on aircraft accidents such as the Delta 191 air crash at DFW. He treated me well. He treated all of his personnel and students well if you worked hard and did things properly. If you were not accurate in your work or he thought you were not working up to expectations, you would be in trouble.


Ted also lived and breathed research. He was continually coming up with new ideas or discoveries. Some of his ideas were astounding and revolutionary. Some of them were "off-the-wall". He was never afraid to create controversy with his new findings or theories. But he stimulated the meteorology community with these new ideas. He made people start "thinking" about a particular meteorological phenomena or problem. This is an area which I believe he will be sorely missed. He always had a fresh approach looking at things. He remained active in research to the time of his death. He did become more sociable during the years after I left the University. Instead of him being too busy to talk to me on the telephone because he was so involved in his research, it became increasingly hard for me to get him off the telephone. This particularly was the case after he wrote his memoirs "Mystery of Severe Storms" in 1992. I believe he felt the pressure to produce accomplishments in meteorological research was over. He could relax more. Unfortunately, for the last couple of years, a medical problem would plague him and would make it difficult for him to relax and conduct his research. We are all very saddened with his passing. There will probably be no one quite like Ted. His voracious appetite to uncover the mysteries of severe storms are unequaled. He and his extraordinary contributions to meteorology will be missed greatly. email:


Ted Fujita was, perhaps, the most uniquely talented individual I have ever met in my life. I had the extraordinary good fortune of working with him for at least part of 11 years.

In the late 1970's, I stumbled onto major conflicts between two independently constructed tornado data bases. They were the NSSFC (National Severe Storm Forecast Center) data base, housed in Kansas City (believe it or not, on IBM punch cards), and the DAPPL (Damage Area Per Path Length) data base, constructed by Dr. Fujita and his students at the University of Chicago. Both were funded by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The two data bases contained drastically different F-Scale ratings for the same event. The extent of these conflicts was confirmed by a computer program written by a promising graduate student (Tim Marshall) at Texas Tech University. A year later, I was on the payroll of the NRC with the job of bringing the conflicting F-Scale ratings into agreement. This would mean, somewhere down the line, suggesting to Professor Fujita himself that he change his own F-Scale ratings. Having admired the man from afar for 15 years, I was very nervous about my first meeting with him.

My first encounter with this most famous of meteorologists was in the living room of Bob Abbey, the project manager for tornado research with the NRC. I can still remember the burning sensation of the unusual Irish whiskey that accompanied that first handshake. Within minutes, over a glass of some rare vintage of sake, and barely having had time to say hello, Ted was describing and showing photographs of how he had used a hot steam iron and a block of dry ice to duplicate some unusual vapor formations and temperature contours on and around overshooting thunderstorm tops. It had something to do with a problem he was trying to solve for NASA. Eleven years later, I would recognize some of the findings in his incredibly detailed cloud-top analysis, of the Plainfield, IL tornadic thunderstorm. The most feared part of the evening, the idea of changing his ratings, never came up. He made no first impression judgements, and I would get his stamp of approval only after years of providing clear evidence for my suggested changes.

For the next decade, at every meeting, I would see him pour forth idea after idea, most of them unpublished, all of them explanations of complex, three-dimensional meteorological puzzles. They would bring together radar data, damage surveys, satellite photography, and analogies from other parts of the physical world ....and bring them together with such ease and simplicity that I felt stupid for not thinking of it myself. He took most of these ideas with him when he died, despite having published hundreds of booklets and articles. Had he been a young man today, I believe he could have changed the face of severe storm meteorology. With the addition of Doppler radar observations to his unique ability of three-dimensional visualization, research might have taken new directions at accelerated speed. He wasn't the greatest mathematician, nor were his political skills as refined as some, but he was able to see with clarity what many others had looked at for decades without seeing at all. His skills ranged from development of satellite observation techniques for NASA to giving new meteorological eyes to the general public. My contact with him was a life-changing experience, and without it, the Tornado Project would probably not have come into existence. email: EDITORS NOTE: Many thanks to Tom Grazulis for securing me a copy of Dr. Fujitas memoirs published in 1992 entitled: The Mystery of Severe Storms.


I was with NSSL at the time when we received a call that Ted wanted to do aerial surveys of the April 3-4 "Jumbo" tornado outbreak but needed help. I was sent from the lab. When I arrived, we had a meeting of all those who participated (Joe Golden was another one of the surveyors) and the regions were divided up. Jamie Tecson and I had Illinois and Indiana tornadoes. (As I recall, per diem was only $35 for Chicago. So, in order to afford to stay in the motel there and eat, I had to buy a jar of peanut butter and jelly and a loaf of bread. The only meal I could eat out was breakfast. Additionally, in order to find a cheap motel I stayed in a dangerous neighborhood). But Jamie and I surveyed several tracks and were fortunate to photograph a now rather famous aerial photo of "suction vortex" cycloidal tracks in farm fields. Ted was very excited about those paths. I recall hearing one of his related conference paper presentations when he projected one of those slides and spoke of us "dancing in the sky, in the airplane" as we flew repeatedly over the location of those particularly clear examples. As I recall, the marks were left in dirt fields but were marked by wheat or straw entrained from nearby fields. Further, the sun angle was just right. Ted was always excited and enthusiastic about everything.

As you know, the core of science is to "see", to "visualize" the physical concepts that weave the observational evidence together into a coherent explanation of the phenomena responsible for those observations. He had a rare gift to "see" what most of us could not "see". Further, he also had the gift to illustrate these concepts in a unique fashion and with an artistic flare such that no one else could approach that ability. These illustrations, being so unique with such clear logic, were always easily recognizable as his, no matter the concept and no matter the context. I could always immediately recognize them as his.

So many think of him as "Mr. Tornado". This because of his "suction vortex", his single and multiple vortex tornadoes, his very famous damage F-scale that bears his name. Few may realize that the term "wall cloud" was coined by him when he studied and documented the 1957 Fargo, ND tornadoes. The "tail cloud" also emerged from that study. He did very much to relate the radar "hook" echo with the tornado and to try to understand its relevance to relationship to the parent storm. He was not without error, of course. I remember that, at least early on, he believed that the wings of the "Spread Eagle" tornadic storm parent echo represented inflow to the storm. (I later found that along these bands of echo, were motions outward and away from the storm and were related to flow around the updraft.) Then, of course, was his work on the "tornado cyclone" (that term was not one of his own, it came from Brooks, 1949), collapse of the echo top during tornadogenesis, the "leaping cirrus" around the overshooting cloud domes of tornadic and other severe storms. He was also known for his laboratory tornadic vortex simulator and his tiny neighborhood that it destroyed. He created this model, in part, to study suction vortices. Their were other better models, such as Neil Ward's of NSSL, but his was also revealing. There were many other areas of tornado study such as vegetation and structure damage form tornadoes.

He was the father of meso meteorology. He began writing and illustrating and explaining these concepts in the mid to late 1950s. He applied these analyses techniques to the "tornado cyclone" of the Champaign-Urbana radar observations in ~1958-1959 time frame. He applied these techniques to thunderstorm complexes, to bubble boundary marking the downdraft outflow from these complexes. He noted the importance of these boundaries. Earlier scientists had emphasized the synoptic scales and even to the extent of smoothing out these mesoscale systems. But Ted realized that within these mesoscale systems energy concentrations were an order of magnitude beyond the larger scales and as such, were responsible for damage and death dealing weather occurrences. The secret to understanding and forecasting threatening weather was to understand and forecast these systems.

But within that extremely bright, intellect and imagination (the key to so much in science, imagination) was an explosion of ideas and understanding that far outdistanced all but the most perceptive scientists of the time. He always far "outdistanced" nearly all his nearest competitors. If we liken the pursuit of meteorological understanding with scientists in a track running event, Ted was 30, 40, 50, yards or more in the lead, in a class by himself. He always arrived there well ahead of most. But many got lost along the way and ended up somewhere else in the wilderness of poor understanding. Many of these lost sojourners found their way back after reading the technical reports from Ted and his University of Chicago group and his conference and formal publications. Fujita, because of so many ideas all within his mind at the same time and because of insufficient time, did not seem to formally publish so much of what he did. He simply did not have a lot of patience to work on one topic for the year plus, needed to get the ideas from informal report to the complete formal publication. But don't misunderstand, he had a list of publications, both formal and informal that is the envy of very many researchers. He had far too many new ideas to get out into the community than to spend too much time on one idea. It seemed that everywhere he turned his attention, he surged out ahead of all in that field. Examples not only included tornadoes and severe storms, meso meteorology, satellite meteorology, tropical meteorology, aviation meteorology, but many, many others.

After studying the crash of Eastern flight 66 at LaGaurdia, he began to introduce the downburst/microburst concepts. Again, his aerial surveys (which he may have been one of the earliest proponents of) resulted in so many revealing photographs. One of those that sticks in my mind is the downed wheat outward from the slanted roof of a farm building. He concluded that a downward rush of air in a very narrow column impinged on the roof and was deflected outward with damaging intensity. What an illustration of an extremely small scale down flow!! This was an area that did grab his attention for many years because it touched on aviation safety, public severe storm threats, forecasting, and other areas. But, of course, it did not stop him from enlightening our understanding of other meteorological areas.

Nomenclature. How can anyone think of Ted Fujita without the new and unique names he coined to identify his newly revealed phenomena. "Suction vortices" was one concept. Actually, the existence of these had been realized in the time of Finley but Ted rediscovered them and named them. Of course, everyone (of the aged crowed) thinks of the downburst"/ "microburst" as his. And correctly so. Then, of course, there are his scales of atmospheric flow...micro, miso, meso, etc. Many may not have realized that Ted suffered from Diabetes and circulatory complications from it. He suffered severe leg pains. He even studied and documented these pains with his revealing illustrations and writings.


I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of both Col. Robert C. Miller and Dr. T. Theodore Fujita. During my graduate-school days (at the University of Oklahoma) and early days of my meteorology career (at GE/MATSCO in Beltsville, MD), I had the good fortune and pleasure to not only have known both of these men, but also to have worked closely, albeit briefly, with them. This was also the decade of the 1970s, when much of the foundation for the tremendous advancements of the 1980s, related to the understanding of severe-storm forecasting techniques and boundary-layer tornado structure, was first laid. Both Col. Miller and Dr. Fujita were truly pioneers and stalwarts in these respective specialties within the field of meteorology. Through their unique and innovative contributions, both advanced the theory and science of meteorology in "quantum leaps." Many of the concepts that Col. Miller and Dr. Fujita proposed then have not only withstood the test of scientific scrutiny over time, but survive today within the routine operational forecast models and post-analysis research tools used daily in the modernized NWSFOs of the late 1990s. Achieving this very realization is, perhaps, their greatest legacy to the science of meteorology. Perhaps it is more than just a curious twist of fate that Col. Miller and Dr. Fujita both passed away at the same age (78) within the same year, slightly more than two months apart, just before the arrival of the New Millennium. In a way, this may symbolize that their passing closes a chapter from the "Pioneering Era" of weather science, when knowledge was often acquired by simple human sight and thought, rather than complex computer simulation or reliance upon the sophisticated machines of high-technology that so pervasively surround us nowadays. Weather forecasters and severe-storm modelers of today and the future must never take for granted the achievements that Col. Miller and Dr. Fujita brought to the science of meteorology through their love of, and life-long dedication to, the relating of meticulous observations within our fickle atmosphere. Looking back, I know now that each has left his "mark" on my life." email:


I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Fujita while working for American Airlines in Chicago in 1975. I found him an extremely friendly and interesting man who took the time to patiently explain many of his tornado theories. In April 1975, a storm event caused damage to a number of areas in and around O'Hare including the apartment complex where I lived in Schiller Park. After talking with several eyewitnesses about the chain-of-events leading up to the occurrences of damage (popping eardrums, roaring sound, etc.), I contacted Dr. Fujita and he requested that I visit him at the University of Chicago with my findings. After meeting with him for about an hour, he asked me to put together a questionnaire, which I did, and go back and interview people in the damage path. I did this and subsequently mailed him the surveys. As I recall, he believed the storm to have been an F1.

At the time, Weatherwise had given some press to the possible electrical link of tornadoes (around that time some experimentation had been going on with a spheric "tornado detectors") and being fascinated with this aspect of tornadogenesis at the time, I had a chance to quiz him at length regarding his theories (he felt there was no correlation) and I was very much impressed with his willingness to explain his theories to a non-student layman. As you know, he was the tornado guru of the 70's and it was truly an honor. He also spent a half hour showing me his tornado generator (he was extremely proud of it). Upon leaving his lab, he gave me several copies of his legendary hand-drawn charts including a couple that I still have (The "Super Outbreak" track poster and a similar chart that he prepared on Chicago Area Tornadoes). For me, it was equivalent to meeting the Pope. His impact on storm science is incalculable and our world is a little less without his presence.


On 19 November the meteorological community lost one of its great luminaries, Professor T.T. "Ted" Fujita of the University of Chicago. Fujita has left a lasting mark upon the meteorological community and the public awareness of tornado and microburst hazards. His obituary was published in major newspapers across the nation. Though he is perhaps most widely known for inventing the Fujita scale for assessing tornado damage, during the course of his 78 years he was often far "ahead of his time" in terms of his insight into the nature and cause of damaging convective storms. He proposed the existence of multiple suction vortices within tornadoes based upon swaths in the debris patterns left by tornadoes. He similarly proposed the existence of microbursts, in part, based upon their diffluent damage patterns. For storm chasers, Prof. Fujita's greatest contribution was providing the first visual documentation of the supercell that developed over Fargo, North Dakota by skillfully combining a series of disparate photographs taken by local citizens with a detailed damage survey. In that context, Prof. Fujita was a great meteorological detective with powerful intuitive skills, able to formulate conceptual models based upon complex clues left behind at the disaster scene. At the time, skeptics would doubt his hypotheses, bringing much frustration. Ultimately, tornado videos and "hard" meteorological data would prove him right. For bringing the microburst to the attention of the aviation community, spawning pilot training on microburst avoidance, he received several awards and the testimony from pilots that his research had saved many lives.

Besides his gift for piecing together conceptual models, Prof. Fujita was equally adept at illustrating his concepts in a way that made them easy to visualize. His multi-color damage survey maps of hurricanes and tornado outbreaks remain classics. His superb graphics motivated the American Meteorological Society Committee on Severe Storms to initiate a best visual aids prize at their Severe Local Storms Conference in 1975. Here, perhaps, his formal education in mechanical engineering (B.S., 1943, Meiji College of Technology) paid benefits to the meteorological community, as well as contributing to his accomplishments in rectifying early satellite imagery, in tornado and cloud photogrammetry, and in inventing a mechanical tornado simulator. His flair for illustration was evident even in 1947 when he learned the art of silk screen printing in order to prepare color publications to educate grade school teachers about weather.

Prof. Fujita brought with him a diversity of experiences and skills when he arrived at the University of Chicago as a Research Associate in 1953 and as a faculty member in 1956. His first damage surveys were not of tornadoes but of the destruction at Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, seeking to determine the precise three-dimensional positions of the atomic bomb explosions there. He learned of hydrostatic and non-hydrostatic pressures while taking measurements in a coal mine, and later applied these concepts to a 1947 study of thunderstorm downdrafts and mesohighs Ė a study that began his expertise in mesoanalysis and prompted an invitation from Dr. Horace Byers to come to the United States following the completion of his Doctoral dissertation (ScD, 1953, Kyushu Institute of Technology), an analytical study of typhoons. Never one to shy away from controversy, Prof. Fujita had no fear of being proven wrong. He once said, "even if I am wrong 50% of time, that would still be a tremendous contribution to meteorology." Looking back at his stellar career, it can now be stated that Prof. Fujita severely overestimated that percentage. We will all remember him as a tireless and, at times, relentless worker who was driven by the desire to make novel discoveries and stimulate other scientists to examine his theories. The mesoscale meteorology community, in general, and the severe storms community, in particular, have lost one of the true giants in the field. Today we mourn his passing, but are happy to have had the opportunity to interact with such a remarkable scientist.


"Throughout the past one half century, my hobby was to observe, measure and analyze data on damaging winds and their parent clouds, in an attempt to unlock the mystery of small but violent airflowís which escape detection by conventional wind-measuring devices. Fortunately, my hobby was identical to my occupation under two single employers, the first in Japan and the second in the United States. I recall that I was able to walk on a series of stepping stones marked "good luck" ever since I finished out of postwar Japan to the University of Chicago by Professor Horace R. Byers, my fatherly mentor professor. Although I regret that I had no chance to orbit around the earth in a manned spacecraft, I was fortunate to have flown repeatedly over and around thunderstorm tops by high-altitude research Lear Jet. I was thrilled by a supersonic flight across the Atlantic in the cockpit of Air France Concorde. At low altitude, on the other hand, I flew over 40,000 km in a Cessna above the swaths of tornadoes in search of the damage caused by unidentified winds. The starburst patterns of uprooted trees found in forests led me to hypothesize the downburst/microburst winds which initiated a controversy lasting from the late 1970ís to the 1980ís. By classifying numerous damage photographs taken from low-flying aircraft, the Fujita Tornado Scale (F-scale) was devised in 1971. It is a six-point intensity scale pegged to wind speed." -Ted Fujita, memoirs.

1. EARLY YEARS IN JAPAN - Close calls

Tetsuya (Ted) Fujita was born on October 23, 1920 in northern Kyushu, the southwestern-most island in Japan. He was brought up in a small town; the native village of Nakasone which had about 1,000 people at that time. He was proud of the fact that they didnít have to lock their doors at night and you could buy items at the local store on credit as long as you paid for it by January 1st, the new year. Tedís parents met while teaching school. Both parents died early in life. His father, Tomojiro, passed away in 1939, two months prior to Ted receiving his first science honor award. Ted regretted the early death of his father for the rest of his life. His mother, Yoshie, died in 1941. Ted recalls that the last words of his father actually saved his life. Ted wanted to attend Hiroshima College but his father insisted that he attend Meiji College on Kyushu Island. Had Ted attended Hiroshima College, Ted likely would have been killed by the first atomic bomb which exploded there in 1945. Shortly, after his fathers death, Ted received admission letters from both Hiroshima College and Meiji College. In honor of his fathers wishes, Ted selected Meiji College and majored in Mechanical Engineering. He also was interested in geology, specifically volcanoes and caves. For recreation, he was a spelunker. Ted also liked to draw maps and collected topographic maps of the local area. His interest in cartography clearly lasted into his professional career. World War II started to affect Tedís life. He graduated six months earlier than anticipated and soonafter was appointed as an assistant professor in physics. Ted taught elementary physics and physics lab. On a visit to Tokyo in March 1945, Ted witnessed a fire bomb attack by the Americans which burned 230,000 homes overnight. He heard a loud bang at close distance. The next day Ted found an unexploded bomb very near where he was staying.

On August 9, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, about 135 miles away. Ted was later informed that the bomb was actually targeted for Kokura Terminal, about three miles from the college where Ted was staying. Ted recalled it was cloudy that day with thick stratus. Air raid sirens sounded as the bomber approached and Ted sought shelter in the bunker next to the Physics building. Evidently, the weather was not adequate over his town for dropping the bomb and the pilot flew off toward their second target -Nagasaki. Ted no doubt would have been killed from the concussion of the blast had the bomb been dropped on Kokura Terminal.

WWII ended six days after the dropping of the second atomic bomb. About a month later, Ted was asked to survey the bomb damage along with a group of students. From analyzing burn marks on certain objects, Ted was able to determine that both bombs were detonated at about 520 feet above the ground. Ted theorized the Americans new the pressure distribution above the cities in spite of the complete blackout of weather reports. Later, Ted found out dropsondes were deployed above the cities prior to bombs being released. Though some of Tedís students fell ill from analyzing bomb damage; Ted fortunately did not suffer any ill effects. However, the post war era was harsh on Ted. Inflation soared out of control in Japan and the price of rice skyrocketed. Early in 1946, Ted applied for a Department of Education grant under the topic "Weather Science" to instruct teachers about the weather, a topic which fascinated him. In an effort to solve the mystery of unbalanced local winds at the surface, Ted wanted to observe the weather from a mountain top. He trekked up to local weather station on a nearby mountain and was rewarded with a strong thunderstorm. He was able to get complete records of wind, temperature and pressure. From his observations, Ted deduced that the thunderstorms contained a downward current of slightly cooler air. He was unaware at the time that the Thunderstorm Project was underway in the United States and had already measured such downdrafts.

Tedís first tornado damage survey was on September 26, 1948. A tornado struck Enoura on Kyushu Island. Such a tornado occurrence was rare for the island and Ted became fascinated by looking at the damage. He walked the entire damage path, about six miles, over many hillsides and rice fields. The tornado actually formed as a waterspout in Ariake Bay before moving on shore blowing off roofs and flattening crops. Ted began giving lectures to the Weather Service on his findings and soon realized he had better publish them. Ted bought a typewriter (which cost 2.7 times his monthly pay) and began translating his findings into English. Tapping one finger at a time, Ted slowly completed the translations. In one of his visits to the Weather Service, someone brought to his attention a paper on Nonfrontal Thunderstorms which was in the trash. The paper was authored by Dr. Horace Byers at the University of Chicago. Ted began corresponding with Dr. Byers sending him the translated papers. Dr. Byers was kind enough to respond and even sent Ted a copy of the THUNDERSTORM PROJECT book. Ted was now hooked on meteorology, however, six years would pass before Ted would visit Dr. Byers in Chicago. Ted worked toward his doctorate degree and was tasked with studying the damage in the wake of several typhoons which struck Kyushu Island three consecutive years in a row. He received financial support from Dr. Otani, to which Ted was indebted. Tedís thesis "Analytical Study of Typhoons" was completed in August 1952 but it took another year for it to be approved.

2. MESOANALYSIS (1953): Early works

Within weeks after becoming professor Fujita, Ted made the big jump across the Pacific Ocean to visit Dr. Byers. This was quite a journey for Ted - his first long trip -a long way from home in a new country -the people look so different and speak a different language. The airfare from Tokyo to San Francisco was equivalent to 13 months of pay, so Ted had to borrow the money. He then took a train from San Francisco to Chicago. Ted was short on cash arriving in the U.S. with only $22, the highest amount immigration would allow. In order to stretch what money he had, he bought a three-day supply of fig bars and Coca-Cola and fasted on them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout his journey. Upon his arrival in Chicago, he was greeted by Dr. Byers secretary who escorted him to the International House which he called home for the next two years. Ted adapted quite well to the new country and city environment remembering the days of strolling along the shores of Lake Michigan. Ted always credited Dr. Byers with saving him from the post-war depression.

Ted became interested in the thunderstorm studies that Dr. Morris Tepper was doing at the U.S. Weather Bureau in Washington D.C. Dr. Tepper was analyzing barograph traces trying to correlate tornado formation with pressure jump lines. Dr. Fujita was asked to apply his microanalysis techniques to the barograph traces from a case involving a tornado outbreak in Kansas and Oklahoma on June 25, 1953. Suddenly, mesoanalysis was born. Ted studies revealed mesolows, mesohighs, wake depressions, as well as pressure jump lines. Sharp dips in the barograph traces were termed "mesocyclones". Ted savored being on the cutting edge of meteorology and knew the U.S was the best place to be to apply his trade. However, he had to go back to Japan to finish his teaching contract in October, 1955 but he immediately applied for an immigrant visa and returned to Chicago the following July with his family. It was during this time that Ted co-authored the landmark paper "Mesoanalysis" published in 1956 as Weather Bureau research paper number 39. Ted arrived back in the states on July 21, 1956 with young son Kazuya. They stayed in a private house the university purchased for them located only one building south of the U.S. Weather Bureau. One of Tedís first big challenges was to learn how to drive a car and get his drivers license. He did so in two days.

3. THE FARGO, ND TORNADO (1957): A career begins

On June 20, 1957, a tornado struck Fargo, North Dakota killing ten and injuring 103 people. Over 1300 homes were damaged or destroyed. The tornado moved slowly (19 mph) and was highly visible. As a result, many people took photographs of the tornado. Dr. Byers asked Ted to undertake a photogrammetric study of the event. With help from WDAY-TV in asking people to submit photographs of the event, Ted was able to assemble 150 cloud pictures from 53 locations within two months. Over the next two years, Ted studied this event in great detail. He normalized the photographs to one size and utilized methods of triangulation to accurately fix the positions and movements of the storm clouds. He was able to plot the path of the tornado and cloud features at one-minute intervals. Ted identified the WALL CLOUD and TAIL CLOUD features in the photographs. His paper "A Detailed Analysis of the Fargo Tornado of June 20, 1957" was published in 1960. Meanwhile, Ted learned to write grant proposals in an effort to continue his tornado research. In 1962, Ted became an Associate Professor of Meteorology at the University of Chicago.

4. THE PALM SUNDAY TORNADO OUTBREAK (1965): Surveying damage

On April 11, 1965, 36 tornadoes struck the upper Midwest killing 253 people. Ted conducted aerial surveys of the damage traveling 7500 miles in four days. He noticed the tornado tracks paralleled each other in FAMILIES. Where one tornado damage path ended, another tornado damage path began a few miles to the east-northeast. He also noticed CYCLOIDAL MARKS in the open fields. At the time, he thought these were scratch marks in the fields. He regretted not conducting a corresponding ground survey as he wondered how these marks were formed for years. In surveying the damage, he noticed some houses lost roofs whereas others were completely demolished. This survey would later help him devise a damage/intensity scale.

5. THE FUJITA SCALE (1971): Great leaps

Ted noticed a void between the Beaufort scale (B12) or 73 mph with the lower end of the Mach Number (M1) of 738 mph. So, he bridged the void with his own scale and divided it into 12 linear steps. Why 12 intervals? Maybe it was because the Beaufort scale was divided into 12 intervals. Who knows? Anyway, he set aside the lowest six intervals F0 to F6 for rating tornado damage and called it the Fujita Tornado Scale, or F-scale. The F-scale linked wind speeds with corresponding damages to "strong frame houses". Such bold steps soon got Ted into trouble within the scientific community since his scale lacked verification of such correlationís. But, it seemed plausible that winds between 40 and 73 mph could take some roof shingles off a house and winds 73 to 113 mph could remove portions of the roof deck. Also, it was logical to expect roofs to be removed with winds of 113 to 158 mph with exterior walls gone between 158 and 207mph. He published his findings in 1971 in his own SMRP research paper entitled "Proposed Characterization of Tornadoes and Hurricanes by Area and Intensity". Since then, the F-scale has stood the test of time and has become widely known.

Ted also kept thinking back to those cycloidal marks he saw in 1965. He hypothesized the marks were produced by smaller tornadoes or suction vortices which rotated around the periphery of the larger circulation. He deduced that the vortices would form on the south side of the circulation, intensify as they moved around the right side of the tornado, and dissipate on the back side of the tornado. He also theorized that the "scratch marks" were actually regions of gathered debris. A model of his suction vortex theory was published in 1971.

6. OVERSHOOTING TOPS (1972): High flyer

In 1972, Ted received grants from NOAA and NASA to conduct aerial photographic experiments of thunderstorms in an attempt to improve the interpretation of weather satellite data. Weather satellites were still a new thing but the picture quality greatly improved with LANDSAT. Using Lear jets as well as DC-6 and P-3 aircraft, Ted spent many hours filming the tops of thunderstorms. He studied the overshooting tops or domes and found they were always in a state of flux. He documented three stages of dome collapse and splashout. He also witnessed the diverging wake downwind of the dome and mapped the temperatures of the cloud features. Subtle features in the cloud tops like shadows, waves, and craters were identified. He found that dome collapses sometimes correlated well with tornado occurrences. He also took stereoscopic photographs of the storm tops and employed photogrammetry to determine cloud motions. He then compared his results with the cloud movements on satellite.

7. THE SUPEROUTBREAK (1974): The big event

On April 3 and 4, 1974, an incredible outbreak of tornadoes occurred in the central U.S. A total of 148 tornadoes killed 315 people and injured 5484 people. There were 2,584 miles of tornado damage. In an effort to document the event, Ted launched a major fact-finding expedition with his own team as well as help from Joe Golden and Les Lemon at NSSL, and John McCarthy at Oklahoma University among others. Never before has such an outbreak of tornadoes occurred. Damage tracks of the tornadoes were photographed and assigned F-scale numbers. The result was Tedís incredible map showing all of the tornado tracks.

8. EASTERN FLIGHT 66 (1975): A new discovery

On June 24, 1975, Eastern Airlines flight number 66 crashed at John F. Kennedy Airport during a thunderstorm killing 122 people. The initial cause was listed as wind shear, a freak shift in the wind direction. Eastern Airlines representatives contacted Ted and sent him the detailed flight data. Ted initially suspected that a small scale wind event had occurred. He requested the flight data from other flights around the time of the accident and found that some planes experienced strong crosswinds while others experienced strong headwinds or tailwinds. A time history of each flight was made along with their indicated airspeeds. He found there were small pockets of rapidly descending air which he called MICROBURSTS, a small downburst. Unfortunately, the Eastern aircraft flew through the middle of one such microburst, lost altitude and crashed short of the runway. The aviation community was overwhelmed with Tedís new discovery of the microburst and funding increased dramatically for studying this newly recognized aviation hazard. However, many meteorologists did not embrace the microburst concept at first believing that Ted simply rediscovered the well known downdraft and gust front. Ted took such criticisms seriously and spent many sleepless nights. At times, he consoled with his mentor Dr. Byers who encouraged him to keep working and publishing.

9. PROJECT NIMROD (1976) AND JAWS (1978): Looking for downbursts

Ted received funding for detecting downbursts and microbursts and launched project NIMROD (Northern Illinois Research on Downburst) in 1976. Unknown to Ted at the time, such downbursts and microbursts were not as common in northern Illinois as they were on the high plains. NIMROD lasted only two years. During that time, a few microbursts and downbursts were sampled, however, not as many as Ted would have liked to quell the continued criticisms of his work. After NIMROD was over, colleagues invited Ted to take part in the JAWS project (initially termed Joint Airport Wind Shear) in northeast Colorado. The first day, Ted was in Colorado he saw a microburst for the first time. However, this one was not filled with rain but driven by the evaporation of rain. Thus, he developed the terms WET and DRY microbursts to indicate whether they were accompanied by rain at the ground or not.

10. BACK TO TORNADOES (1978 through 1982): More detail

Ted continued surveying tornado damage during the downburst project. In December 1978, a tornado struck Bossier City, Louisiana. Metal I-beams were lofted from the gymnasium roof at Meadowview Elementary School. Dr. Jim McDonald (my thesis chairman) from Texas Tech University helped survey the damage. One steel beam struck the ground outside the tornado damage path at a 23 degree angle and was imbedded nearly eight feet. Then on June 3, 1980 seven tornadoes occurred near Grand Island, Nebraska over a two hour and forty-five minute period. The tornado damage paths were very contorted as the storm movement was quite slow. Some of the tornado damage paths actually looped around and crossed the same or other paths. Ted was able to sort out the paths utilizing the local weather service radar images which recorded close-range scans of the hook echo and tornado which appeared as an echo hole. This was one of the most complex tornado damage paths he had ever documented. Then on June 12, 1982, Ted saw his first tornadoes while working on the JAWS project in northeast Colorado. Mr. Tornado finally saw the phenomenon which he has been studying all these years. A party was held in Tedís honor to commemorate the event.

11. WINDS OF MANY KINDS (1983 through 1993): A mixed bag

During the next ten years, Ted studied the winds of various phenomena including Hurricanes Alicia in 1983, Hugo in 1989, and Andrew in 1992. In 1985, the Delta 191 crash at Dallas-Fort Worth in 1985 was one of the most complex microbursts he studied. It was during this time that Ted published his phenomenal books on the Downburst and Microburst. Then, in 1990, a tornado struck Plainfield, IL near Chicago. Ted launched an all out effort to study this complicated event pulling together satellite, radar, and ground information. He found that the intense tornado was born out of a storm which punched its way through a capped atmosphere and was initially force fed by microbursts. The damages were some of the most intense he had seen and he expanded his F-scale rating system to include crop damage. Ted was always fascinated by the mystery of severe storms. He left a legacy of many decades of research and will continue to inspire new scientists for generations.