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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 6 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 1555-1565, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Jun 2018

Research article | 04 Jun 2018

A forensic re-analysis of one of the deadliest European tornadoes

Alois M. Holzer1, Thomas M. E. Schreiner1,2, and Tomáš Púčik1 Alois M. Holzer et al.
  • 1ESSL, European Severe Storms Laboratory, Wiener Neustadt, 2700, Austria
  • 2Skywarn Austria, Steyr, 4400, Austria

Abstract. Extremely rare events with high potential impact, such as violent tornadoes, are of strong interest for climatology and risk assessment. In order to obtain more knowledge about the most extreme events, it is vital to study historical cases. The purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) to demonstrate how a windstorm catastrophe that happened 100 years ago, such as the Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria, tornado on 10 July 1916, can be successfully re-analyzed using a forensic approach, and (2) to propose a repeatable working method for assessing damage and reconstructing the path and magnitude of local windstorm and tornado cases with sufficient historical sources. Based on the results of the forensic re-analyses, a chronology of the tornado impact is presented, followed by a description of the key tornado characteristics: a maximum intensity rating of F4, a damage path length of 20km and a maximum visible tornado diameter of 1km. Compared to a historical scientific study published soon after the event, additional new findings are presented, namely the existence of two predecessor tornadoes and a higher number of fatalities: at least 34 instead of 32. While the storm-scale meteorology could not be reconstructed, rich damage data sources for the urban area of Wiener Neustadt facilitated a detailed analysis of damage tracks and wind intensities within the tornado. The authors postulate the requirement for an International Fujita Scale to rate tornadoes globally in a consistent way, based on comparable damage indicators.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This study of a historical tornado that occurred about 100 years ago was motivated by the fact that rich photo material of the inflicted damage was available. It is important to rate particularly strong tornadoes, because their number is generally low, and statistics of the frequency for such events and the subsequent risk assessment heavily rely on a sound data basis. The tornado reached maximum winds of F4 intensity and caused 34 fatalities. A working method is presented for similar events.
This study of a historical tornado that occurred about 100 years ago was motivated by the fact...