Comparison of two methods of near-surface wind speed estimation in the 22 May, 2011 Joplin, Missouri Tornado

Franklin T. Lombardo, David B. Roueche, David O. Prevatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tornado research has significantly advanced our understanding of tornadoes and their impacts. However, knowledge of the near-surface (<10. m above ground) wind speeds in tornadoes is still lacking, despite its importance to both the engineering and meteorological communities. Because near-surface wind speeds in tornadoes are typically out of the reach of radar, and in-situ measurements are difficult to obtain, the peak near-surface wind speeds are currently estimated using methods based upon the damage inflicted. In this study, a near-surface wind field model is developed using tree-fall patterns observed following the 22 May, 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado. This wind field is compared to over 1200 individual wind speed estimates throughout the tornado path, obtained from a ground survey of the building damage using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The comparison demonstrates for individual structures that the estimated tree-fall wind speeds are consistently higher than wind speeds estimated using the EF scale. Differences between the two methods become more pronounced for individual structures closer to the tornado center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-97
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • EF-scale
  • Near-surface
  • Tornado
  • Tree-fall
  • Wind speeds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Mechanical Engineering


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