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After a Gale – Wreckers by James Hamilton
Gale warning flag

The U.S. National Weather Service defines a gale as 34–47 knots (63–87 km/h, 17.5–24.2 m/s or 39–54 miles/hour) of sustained surface winds.[1] Forecasters typically issue gale warnings when winds of this strength are expected.

Other sources use minima as low as 28 knots (52 km/h, 32 mph) and maxima as high as 90 knots (170 km/h, 100 mph). Through 1986, the National Hurricane Center used the term gale to refer to winds of tropical force for coastal areas, between 33 knots (61 km/h, 38 mph) and 63 knots (117 km/h, 72 mph). The 90 knots (170 km/h, 100 mph) definition is very non-standard. A common alternative definition of the maximum is 55 knots (102 km/h, 63 mph).[2]

The most common way of measuring winds is with the Beaufort scale,[3] which defines a gale as wind from 50 to 102 km/h. It is an empirical measure for describing wind speed based mainly on observed sea conditions. Its full name is the Beaufort Wind Force Scale.

On the Beaufort Wind Scale, a gale is classified as: 7: Moderate Gale (32–38 miles per hour), 8: Fresh Gale (39-46 mph), 9: Strong Gale (47-54 mph) and 10: Storm/Whole Gale (55-63 mph). A gale is a type of Wind Description preceded by 0: Calm, 1: Light Air, 2: Light Breeze, 3: Gentle Breeze, 4: Moderate Breeze, 5: Fresh Breeze, 6: Strong Breeze and succeeded by 11: Violent Storm and 12: Hurricane on a Beaufort Wind Scale. There is a unique Beaufort Scale number and a unique Arrow Indication for each type of Wind Description mentioned above.

The word gale is derived from the older gail, but its origin is uncertain.[4]


  1. ^ National Weather Service Glossary, s.v. "gale".
  2. ^ Glossary of Meteorological Terms, NovaLynx Corporation.
  3. ^ see article for more on the traditional nautical use of the word "gale"
  4. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
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