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After a Gale – Wreckers by James Hamilton
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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. 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-knot (170 km/h) 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>