Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

First Advisor

William A. Gallus, Jr.


Aerial photos taken along the damage paths of the Joplin, MO, and Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, AL, tornadoes of 2011 captured and preserved several unique patterns of damage. In particular, a few distinct tree-fall patterns were noted along the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado track that appeared highly influenced by the underlying topography. One such region was the focus of a damage survey and motivated laboratory vortex simulations with a 3-D foam representation of the underlying topography, in addition to simulations performed with idealized 2D topographic features, using Iowa State University's tornado simulator. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore various aspects related to the interaction of a tornado or a tornado-like vortex with its underlying topography. Three topics are examined: 1) Analysis of tornado-induced tree-fall using aerial photography from the Joplin, MO, and Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, AL, tornadoes of 2011, 2) Laboratory investigation of topographical influences on a simulated tornado-like vortex, and 3) On the use of non-standard EF-scale damage indicators to categorize tornadoes.

Copyright Owner

Christopher D. Karstens



File Format


File Size

154 pages