Enhanced Fujita scale

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Enhanced Fujita Scale
EFUUnknownNo surveyable damage
EF06585 mphLight damage
EF186110 mphModerate damage
EF2111135 mphConsiderable damage
EF3136165 mphSevere damage
EF4166200 mphDevastating damage
EF5>200 mphIncredible damage

The Enhanced Fujita scale (or abbreviated as EF-Scale) rates the intensity of tornadoes in some countries, including the United States and Canada, based on the damage they cause.


The Enhanced Fujita scale replaced the decommissioned Fujita scale that was introduced in 1971 by Ted Fujita. Operational use began in the United States on February 1, 2007, followed by Canada on April 1, 2013. [1] [2] [3] It has also been proposed for use in France. [4] The scale has the same basic design as the original Fujita scale—six intensity categories from zero to five, representing increasing degrees of damage. It was revised to reflect better examinations of tornado damage surveys, in order to align wind speeds more closely with associated storm damage. Better standardizing and elucidating what was previously subjective and ambiguous, it also adds more types of structures and vegetation, expands degrees of damage, and better accounts for variables such as differences in construction quality. An "EF-Unknown" (EFU) category was later added for tornadoes that cannot be rated due to a lack of damage evidence. [5]

The newer scale was publicly unveiled by the National Weather Service at a conference of the American Meteorological Society in Atlanta on February 2, 2006. It was developed from 2000 to 2004 by the Fujita Scale Enhancement Project of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University, which brought together dozens of expert meteorologists and civil engineers in addition to its own resources. [6]

As with the Fujita scale, the Enhanced Fujita scale remains a damage scale and only a proxy for actual wind speeds. While the wind speeds associated with the damage listed have not undergone empirical analysis (such as detailed physical or any numerical modeling) owing to excessive cost, the wind speeds were obtained through a process of expert elicitation based on various engineering studies since the 1970s as well as from field experience of meteorologists and engineers. In addition to damage to structures and vegetation, radar data, photogrammetry, and cycloidal marks (ground swirl patterns) may be utilized when available.

The scale was used for the first time in the United States a year after its public announcement when parts of central Florida were struck by multiple tornadoes, the strongest of which were rated at EF3 on the new scale. It was used for the first time in Canada shortly after its implementation there when a tornado developed near the town on Shelburne, Ontario on April 18, 2013, causing up to EF1 damage. [7]


The seven categories for the EF scale are listed below, in order of increasing intensity. Although the wind speeds and photographic damage examples are updated, the damage descriptions given are based on those from the Fujita scale, which are more or less still accurate. However, for the actual EF scale in practice, damage indicators (the type of structure which has been damaged) are predominantly used in determining the tornado intensity. [8]

ScaleWind speed estimate [9] FrequencyPotential damageExample of damage
EFUN/AN/A2.43%No surveyable damage.

Intensity cannot be determined due to a lack of information. This rating applies to tornadoes that traverse areas with no damage indicators, cause damage in an area that cannot be accessed by a survey, or cause damage which cannot be differentiated from that of another tornado. [5]

EF065–85105–13753.29%Minor damage.

Peels surface off some roofs; some damage to gutters or siding; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over. Confirmed tornadoes with no reported damage (i.e., those that remain in open fields) have also been rated EF0. While permanent buildings generally suffer only minor damage, unprotected mobile homes or trailers may sustain moderate to serious damage. [10]

Sunset Beach EF0 damage.jpg
EF186–110138–17733.03%Moderate damage.

Roofs severely stripped; mobile homes overturned or badly damaged; loss of exterior doors; windows and other glass broken.

EF1 damage Richardson, Texas.jpg
EF2111–135178–2178.52%Considerable damage.

Roofs torn off from well-constructed houses; foundations of frame homes shifted; mobile homes completely destroyed; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; cars lifted off ground.

EF3136–165218–2662.20%Severe damage.

Entire stories of well-constructed houses destroyed; severe damage to large buildings such as shopping malls; trains overturned; trees debarked; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown; structures with weak foundations are badly damaged.

January 23, 2012, Center Point, Alabama tornado damage.JPG
EF4166–200267–3220.47%Devastating damage.

Well-constructed and whole frame houses completely leveled; some frame homes may be swept away; cars and other large objects thrown and small missiles generated.

Moore, OK EF4 damage DOD9.jpg
EF5>200>3220.06%Incredible damage.

Well-built frame houses destroyed with foundations swept clean of debris; steel-reinforced concrete structures are critically damaged; tall buildings collapse or have severe structural deformations; cars, trucks, and trains can be thrown approximately 1 mile (1.6 km).


Damage indicators and degrees of damage

The EF scale currently has 28 damage indicators (DI), or types of structures and vegetation, each with a varying number of degrees of damage (DoD). Larger degrees of damage done to the damage indicators correspond to higher wind speeds. [11] The links in the right column of the following table describe the degrees of damage for the damage indicators listed in each row.

DI No.Damage indicator (DI)Degrees of damage (DOD)
1Small barns or farm outbuildings (SBO) 8
2One- or two-family residences (FR12) 10
3Manufactured home – single wide (MHSW) 9
4Manufactured home – double wide (MHDW) 12
5Apartments, condos, townhouses [three stories or less] (ACT) 6
6Motel (M) 10
7Masonry apartment or motel building (MAM) 7
8Small retail building [fast-food restaurants] (SRB) 8
9Small professional building [doctor's office, branch banks] (SPB) 9
10Strip mall (SM) 9
11Large shopping mall (LSM) 9
12Large, isolated retail building [K-Mart, Wal-Mart] (LIRB) 7
13Automobile showroom (ASR) 8
14Automobile service building (ASB) 8
15Elementary school [single-story; interior or exterior hallways] (ES) 10
16Junior or senior high school (JHSH) 11
17Low-rise building [1–4 stories] (LRB) 7
18Mid-rise building [5–20 stories] (MRB) 10
19High-rise building [more than 20 stories] (HRB) 10
20Institutional building [hospital, government or university building] (IB) 11
21Metal building system (MBS) 8
22Service station canopy (SSC) 6
23Warehouse building [tilt-up walls or heavy-timber construction] (WHB) 7
24Electrical transmission lines (ETL) 6
25Free-standing towers (FST) 3
26Free-standing light poles, luminary poles, flag poles (FSP) 3
27Trees: hardwood (TH) 5
28Trees: softwood (TS) 5

Differences from the Fujita scale

The new scale takes into account the quality of construction and standardizes different kinds of structures. The wind speeds on the original scale were deemed by meteorologists and engineers as being too high, and engineering studies indicated that slower winds than initially estimated cause the respective degrees of damage. [12] The old scale lists an F5 tornado as wind speeds of 261–318 mph (420–512 km/h), while the new scale lists an EF5 as a tornado with winds above 200 mph (322 km/h), found to be sufficient to cause the damage previously ascribed to the F5 range of wind speeds. None of the tornadoes in the United States recorded before February 1, 2007, will be re-categorized.

Essentially, there is no functional difference in how tornadoes are rated. The old ratings and new ratings are smoothly connected with a linear formula. The only differences are adjusted wind speeds, measurements of which were not used in previous ratings, and refined damage descriptions; this is to standardize ratings and to make it easier to rate tornadoes which strike few structures. Twenty-eight Damage Indicators (DI), with descriptions such as "double-wide mobile home" or "strip mall", are used along with Degrees of Damage (DOD) to determine wind estimates. Different structures, depending on their building materials and ability to survive high winds, have their own DIs and DODs. Damage descriptors and wind speeds will also be readily updated as new information is learned. [11] Some differences do exist between the two scales in the ratings assigned to damage. An EF5 rating on the new scale requires a higher standard of construction in houses than does an F5 rating on the old scale. So, the complete destruction and sweeping away of a typical American frame home, which would likely be rated F5 on the Fujita scale, would be rated EF4 or lower on the Enhanced Fujita scale. [13]

Since the new system still uses actual tornado damage and similar degrees of damage for each category to estimate the storm's wind speed, the National Weather Service states that the new scale will likely not lead to an increase in a number of tornadoes classified as EF5. Additionally, the upper bound of the wind speed range for EF5 is open—in other words, there is no maximum wind speed designated. [8]

Rating classifications

Tornado rating classifications

For purposes such as tornado climatology studies, Enhanced Fujita scale ratings may be grouped into classes. [14] [15] [16] Classifications are also used by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center to determine weather the tornado was "significant". This same classification is also used by the National Weather Service.

The table shows other variations of the tornado rating classifications based on certain areas.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Tornado intensity can be measured by in situ or remote sensing measurements, but since these are impractical for wide-scale use, intensity is usually inferred by proxies, such as damage. The Fujita scale and the Enhanced Fujita scale rate tornadoes by the damage caused. The Enhanced Fujita scale was an upgrade to the older Fujita scale, with engineered wind estimates and better damage descriptions, but was designed so that a tornado rated on the Fujita scale would receive the same numerical rating. An EF0 tornado will probably damage trees and peel some shingles off the roof. An EF5 tornado can rip well-anchored homes off their foundations, leaving them bare, and can even deform large skyscrapers. The similar TORRO scale ranges from a T0 for extremely weak tornadoes to T11 for the most powerful known tornadoes. Doppler radar data, photogrammetry, and ground swirl patterns may also be analyzed to determine intensity and assign a rating.

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Tornadoes of 2021 Notable tornadoes and tornado outbreaks in 2021

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