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F-Scale by Melissa and Elizabeth

We watched a news report on the destruction caused by a tornado in Siren, Wisconsin. This report made us curious about how tornado experts study tornado damage. We asked permission from Siren city officials to visit the town and examine the evidence. Our question: How do you determine the strength of a tornado?

What did we do?
We searched the Internet for information on the Fujita Scale, or F-Scale. We found that there are five classifications, F-1 being the least destructive, F-5 the most. We made a list of clues for each class and printed out some pictures showing various kinds of tornado damage. We then began a walking tour of Siren and tried to match the destruction we saw to our printouts. During our tour we logged the kinds of damage we saw, noting how often we saw each kind.

What did we find out?
We found examples of all types of destruction, ranging from F-1 up to F-4. However, the most common type of damage we saw fit into the category of an F-3. A few days later, while watching the news, we learned that meteorologists also classified it as an F-3 tornado.

What can you do?
  • Research the history of the Fujita-Scale. List the types of damage associated with each classification. Find out the estimates of wind speeds in each class.
  • Find out more about other storms, such as hurricanes or typhoons. What types of severe weather strike where you live?
  • Not all weather is destructive. Keep a weather journal of rainfall, daily temperature and cloud conditions. Look for patterns in your data. If you have an interesting weather investigation, we want to know about it.
  • Use this tornado investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
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