The U.S. National Weather Service rates a twister's intensity by assessing the damage it leaves in its wake. But this methodology may be underrating tornadoes that move through open fields in rural areas,The Washington Post reports. For a decade, researchers measured the wind speed of 82 tornadoes that hit the Great Plains and showed that most of them were stronger and wider than the damages indicated, with about 20% reaching the highest levels of the so-called Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado intensity. The findings, reported this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will be used by a joint committee of the American Meteorological Society and the American Society of Civil Engineers to improve estimates of the destructive power of tornados.
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