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A gale is a very strong wind. There are conflicting definitions of how strong a wind must be to be considered a gale. The U.S. government'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 minimums as low as 28 knots (52 km/h) and maximums as high as 90 knots (170 km/h). 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) and 63 knots (117 km/h). The 90-knot (170 km/h) definition is very non-standard. A common alternative definition of the maximum is 55 knots (102 km/h).[2]

The most common way of measuring winds is with the Beaufort scale /ˈbfərt/[3], which defines 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: Moderate Gale(32-38 miles per hour), Fresh Gale(39-46 mph), Strong Gale(47-54 mph) and Whole Gale(55-63 mph). A Gale is a type of Wind Description preceded by Calm, Light Air, Slight Breeze, Gentle Breeze, Moderate Breeze, Fresh Breeze, Strong Breeze and succeeded by Storm and 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. ^