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Perhaps nothing on Earth is so uniquely majestic, yet destructive as the tornado. A violent tornado can level a town in minutes, causing death, injuries, monumental property losses and lasting emotional damage. To better understand the power behind tornadoes this research estimates the per-tornado total kinetic energy (TKE) for all tornadoes in the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) database over the period 2007-2013. TKE is estimated using the fraction of the tornado path experiencing Enhanced Fujita (EF) damage and the midpoint wind speed for each EF damage rating. TKE is validated as a metric of destruction by comparing it to other indexes of destruction including the Destruction Potential Index (DPI) and Tornado Destruction Index (TDI). Results showed that the Tallulah-Yazoo City-Durant tornado was the tornado with the most energy over the period, that 2011 was the year with the most energy, and that April and May were the months of the year with the most energy. The difference between frequency and energy was investigated and showed that while parts of "Tornado Alley" experienced the most tornadoes, it was the Deep South that experienced the most powerful tornadoes. Future work on TKE should look to compare environmental parameters (convective air potential energy (CAPE), helicity, and vertical wind shear) and TKE values. It should also look to disaggregate the scale at which TKE is possible and focus on the social implications of powerful tornadoes. TKE as a metric of destruction has value in its potential ability to spark new considerations about insurance rates, building codes, and public policy concerning tornadoes.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Geography in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
James B. Elsner, Professor Directing Thesis; Victor Mesev, Committee Member; Stephanie Pau, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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