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Gale warning flag

A gale is a strong wind, typically used as a descriptor in nautical contexts. 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. In the United States, a gale warning is specifically a maritime warning; the land-based equivalent in National Weather Service warning products is a wind advisory.

National Weather Service United States weather agency

The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency of the United States federal government that is tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather-related products to organizations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and general information. It is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the Department of Commerce, and is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, within the Washington metropolitan area. The agency was known as the United States Weather Bureau from 1890 until it adopted its current name in 1970.

Knot (unit) unit of speed

The knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, exactly 1.852 km/h. The ISO standard symbol for the knot is kn. The same symbol is preferred by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); kt is also common, especially in aviation, where it is the form recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The knot is a non-SI unit. Worldwide, the knot is used in meteorology, and in maritime and air navigation—for example, a vessel travelling at 1 knot along a meridian travels approximately one minute of geographic latitude in one hour.

Gale warning

Weather services issue a gale warning for maritime locations currently or imminently experiencing winds of Gale Force on the Beaufort scale. Gale warnings allow mariners to take precautionary actions to ensure their safety at sea or to seek safe anchorage and ride out the storm on land. Though usually associated with deep low-pressure areas, winds strong enough to catalyze a gale warning can occur in other conditions too, including from anticyclones, or high-pressure systems, in the continental interior.

Other sources use minima as low as 28 knots (52 km/h; 14 m/s; 32 mph), and maxima as high as 90 knots (170 km/h; 46 m/s; 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; 17 m/s; 38 mph) and 63 knots (117 km/h; 72 mph; 32 m/s). The 90 knots (170 km/h; 46 m/s; 100 mph) definition is very non-standard. A common alternative definition of the maximum is 55 knots (102 km/h; 63 mph; 28 m/s). [2]

National Hurricane Center Division of the United States National Weather Service

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is the division of the United States' National Weather Service responsible for tracking and predicting tropical weather systems between the Prime Meridian and the 140th meridian west poleward to the 30th parallel north in the northeast Pacific Ocean and the 31st parallel north in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The agency, which is co-located with the Miami branch of the National Weather Service, is situated on the campus of Florida International University in University Park, Florida.

The most common way of measuring wind force is with the Beaufort scale [3] which defines a gale as wind from 50 kilometres per hour (14 m/s) to 102 kilometres per hour (28 m/s). It is an empirical measure for describing wind speed based mainly on observed sea conditions. On the original 1810 Beaufort wind force scale, there were four different "gale" designations whereas generally today there are two gale forces, 8 and 9, and a near gale 7:

Beaufort scale empirical measure describing wind speed based on observed conditions

The Beaufort scale is an empirical measure that relates wind speed to observed conditions at sea or on land. Its full name is the Beaufort wind force scale.

Wind forceOriginal nameCurrent namekm/hm/smphknotsMean knotsSea state
7Moderate galeNear gale50–6114–1732–3828–3330Rough–Very rough
8Fresh galeGale62–7417–2039–4634–4037Very rough–High
9Strong galeSevere gale75–8821–2447–5441–4744High
10Whole galeStorm89–10225–2855–6348–5552Very High

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

Related Research Articles

Wind speed

Wind speed, or wind flow velocity, is a fundamental atmospheric quantity caused by air moving from high to low pressure, usually due to changes in temperature. Note that wind direction is usually almost parallel to isobars, due to Earth's rotation.

The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS), formerly the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale (SSHS), classifies hurricanes – Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones – that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms – into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds.

Small craft advisory

A small craft advisory is a type of wind warning issued by the National Weather Service in the United States. In Canada a similar warning is issued by Environment Canada. It is issued when winds have reached, or are expected to reach within 12 hours, a speed marginally less than gale force. A Small Craft Advisory may also be issued when sea or lake ice exists that could be hazardous to small boats.

Hurricane Donna Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 1960

Hurricane Donna was the strongest hurricane of the 1960 Atlantic hurricane season, and caused severe damage to the Lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles, and the East Coast of the United States, especially Florida, in August–September. The fifth tropical cyclone, third hurricane, and first major hurricane of the season, Donna developed south of Cape Verde on August 29, spawned by a tropical wave to which 63 deaths from a plane crash in Senegal were attributed. The depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Donna by the following day. Donna moved west-northwestward at roughly 20 mph (32 km/h) and by September 1, it reached hurricane status. Over the next three days, Donna deepened significantly and reached maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) on September 4. Thereafter, it maintained intensity as it struck the Lesser Antilles later that day. On Sint Maarten, the storm left a quarter of the island's population homeless and killed seven people. An additional five deaths were reported in Anguilla, and there were seven other fatalities throughout the Virgin Islands. In Puerto Rico, severe flash flooding led to 107 fatalities, 85 of them in Humacao alone.

Tropical cyclone warnings and watches are two levels of alert issued by national weather forecasting bodies to coastal areas threatened by the imminent approach of a tropical cyclone of tropical storm or hurricane intensity. They are notices to the local population and civil authorities to make appropriate preparation for the cyclone, including evacuation of vulnerable areas where necessary. It is important that interests throughout the area of an alert make preparations to protect life and property, and do not disregard it on the strength of the detailed forecast track. Tropical cyclones are not points, and forecasting their track remains an uncertain science.

At sea, a storm warning is a warning issued by the National Weather Service of the United States when winds between 48 knots and 63 knots are occurring or predicted to occur soon. The winds must not be associated with a tropical cyclone. If the winds are associated with a tropical cyclone, a tropical storm warning will be substituted for the storm warning and less severe gale warning.

This article describes severe weather terminology used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the United States. The NWS, a government agency operating as an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the United States Department of Commerce (DoC), defines precise meanings for nearly all of its weather terms. This article describes NWS terminology and related weather scales used by the agency. Some terms may be specific to certain cities or regions.

Tropical cyclones are ranked on one of five tropical cyclone intensity scales, according to their maximum sustained winds and which tropical cyclone basin(s) they are located in. Only a few scales of classifications are used officially by the meteorological agencies monitoring the tropical cyclones, but some alternative scales also exist, such as accumulated cyclone energy, the Power Dissipation Index, the Integrated Kinetic Energy Index, and the Hurricane Severity Index.

Tropical cyclone windspeed climatology

Tropical cyclone windspeed climatology is the study wind distribution amongst tropical cyclones, a significant threat to land and people. Since records began in 1851, winds from hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones have been responsible for fatalities and damage in every basin. Major hurricanes usually cause the most wind damage. Hurricane Andrew for example caused $45 billion in damage, most of it wind damage.

This article describes severe weather terminology used by the Meteorological Service of Canada, a branch within Environment and Climate Change Canada. The article primarily describes various weather warnings, and their criteria. Related weather scales and general weather terms are also addressed in this article. Some terms are specific to certain regions.

Severe weather

Severe weather refers to any dangerous meteorological phenomena with the potential to cause damage, serious social disruption, or loss of human life. Types of severe weather phenomena vary, depending on the latitude, altitude, topography, and atmospheric conditions. High winds, hail, excessive precipitation, and wildfires are forms and effects of severe weather, as are thunderstorms, downbursts, tornadoes, waterspouts, tropical cyclones, and extratropical cyclones. Regional and seasonal severe weather phenomena include blizzards (snowstorms), ice storms, and duststorms.

Wind Flow of gases or air on a large scale

Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On the surface of the Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the Sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space. Winds are commonly classified by their spatial scale, their speed, the types of forces that cause them, the regions in which they occur, and their effect. The strongest observed winds on a planet in the Solar System occur on Neptune and Saturn. Winds have various aspects, an important one being its velocity ; another the density of the gas involved; another its energy content or wind energy. Wind is also a great source of transportation for seeds and small birds; with time things can travel thousands of miles in the wind.

Hurricane Able (1952) Category 2 Atlantic hurricane in 1952

Hurricane Able was the only hurricane to make landfall in the United States in the 1952 season. Forming on August 18 off the west coast of Africa, Able moved generally west- to west-northwestward for much of its duration. It was first observed by the Hurricane Hunters on August 25 to the north of the Lesser Antilles. Two days later, Able attained hurricane status, and on August 30 it turned sharply to the north-northwest in response to a cold front. The hurricane reached peak winds of 105 mph (170 km/h) just prior to moving ashore near Beaufort, South Carolina on August 31. Although it quickly weakened below hurricane force, Able maintained tropical storm force for almost two days over land, eventually dissipating over Maine on September 2.

Glossary of tropical cyclone terms

The following is a glossary of tropical cyclone terms.

A hurricane force wind warning is a warning issued by the National Weather Service of the United States when sustained winds or frequent gusts of 64 knots or greater are either being observed or are predicted to occur. The winds must not be directly associated with a tropical cyclone, or a hurricane warning will be issued. If winds are lighter than 64 knots, a storm warning or gale warning will be issued. In US maritime warning flag systems, two red square flags with a black square taking up the middle ninth of each flag is used to indicate a hurricane force wind warning.

A Wind Advisory is generally issued by the National Weather Service of the United States when there are sustained winds of 31–39 miles per hour (50–63 km/h) and/or gusts of 46–57 miles per hour (74–92 km/h) over land. The product is site specific, but winds of this magnitude occurring over an area that frequently experiences such wind speeds will not trigger a wind advisory.

1933 Cuba–Bahamas hurricane

The 1933 Cuba–Bahamas hurricane was last of six major hurricanes, or at least a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, in the active 1933 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed on October 1 in the Caribbean Sea as the seventeenth tropical storm, and initially moved slowly to the north. While passing west of Jamaica, the storm damaged banana plantations and killed one person. On October 3, the storm became a hurricane, and the next day crossed western Cuba. Advance warning in the country prevented any storm-related fatalities, although four people suspected of looting were shot and killed during a curfew in Havana. The German travel writer Richard Katz witnessed the hurricane while in Havana, and described the experience in his book "Loafing Around the Globe".

1945 Outer Banks hurricane

The 1945 Outer Banks hurricane was a moderate hurricane that struck Florida and affected the East Coast of the United States in late June, 1945. The first tropical storm and the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, it developed on June 20 in the western Caribbean Sea off Honduras. For the next two days, it moved generally northward into the Gulf of Mexico. Reaching hurricane intensity on June 23, it then turned northeast toward the Florida peninsula. It made landfall in the Big Bend on June 24, then weakened to a tropical storm over land. Minor damage was reported in Florida, but the storm produced heavy, though beneficial, rains that eased one of the state's worst recorded droughts. Upon entering the Atlantic Ocean, it re-intensified into a hurricane and paralleled the East Coast. On June 26, it struck the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a minimal hurricane, producing minor damage but heavy rainfall.


  1. National Weather Service Glossary, s.v. "gale".
  2. Glossary of Meteorological Terms, NovaLynx Corporation.
  3. "Beaufort wind force scale". Met Officewebsite.
  4. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2014-03-23.