Reconstruction of a near-surface tornado wind field from observed building damage

Jianjun Luo, Daan Liang, Christopher Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this study, residential building damage states observed from a post-tornado damage survey in Joplin after a 2011 EF 5 tornado were used to reconstruct the near-surface wind field. It was based on well-studied relationships between Degrees of Damage (DOD) of building and wind speeds in the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. A total of 4,166 one-or two-family residences (FR12) located in the study area were selected and their DODs were recorded. Then, the wind speeds were estimated with the EF scale. The peak wind speed profile estimated from damage of buildings was used to fit a translating analytical vortex model. Agreement between simulated peak wind speeds and observed damages confirms the feasibility of using post-tornado damage surveys for reconstructing the near-surface wind field. In addition to peak wind speeds, the model can create the time history of wind speed and direction at any given point, offering opportunity to better understand tornado parameters and wind field structures. Future work could extend the method to tornadoes of different characteristics and therefore improve model's generalizability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-404
Number of pages16
JournalWind and Structures, An International Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Degree of damage
  • Enhanced fujita scale
  • Near-surface wind field
  • Post-tornado damage survey
  • Rankine vortex model
  • Residential buildings
  • Tornadoes


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