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A gale is a strong wind; the word is typically used as a descriptor in nautical contexts. The U.S. National Weather Service defines a gale as sustained surface winds moving at a speed of between 34 and 47 knots (63–87 km/h, 17.5–24.2 m/s or 39–54 miles/hour) of. [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.

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]

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:

Wind forceOriginal nameCurrent namekm/hm/smphknotsMean knotsSea state
7Moderate galeNear gale50–6114–1732–3828–3330Rough
8Fresh galeGale62–7417–2039–4634–4037Very Rough
9Strong galeSevere Gale/ Strong Gale (UK)75–8821–2447–5441–4744High
10Whole galeStorm89–10225–2855–6348–5552Very High


The word gale is derived from the Middle English gale, a general word for wind of any strength, even a breeze. This word is probably of North Germanic origin, related to Icelandic gola (breeze) and Danish gal (furious, mad), [4] which are both from Old Norse gala (to sing), from Proto-Germanic *galaną (to roop, sing, charm), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰel- (to shout, scream, charm away). One online etymology website suggests that the word gale is derived from an earlier spelling, gail, which it claims is of uncertain origin. [5]

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">1933 Cuba–Bahamas hurricane</span> Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1933

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".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1945 Outer Banks hurricane</span> Category 2 Atlantic hurricane in 1945

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.

The following is a list of tropical cyclones by year. Since the year 957, there have been at least 12,791 recorded tropical or subtropical cyclones in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, which are known as basins. Collectively, tropical cyclones caused more than US$1.2 trillion in damage, unadjusted for inflation, and have killed more than 2.6 million people. Most of these deaths were caused by a few deadly cyclones, including the 1881 Haiphong typhoon, the 1931 Shanghai typhoon, the 1970 Bhola cyclone, Typhoon Nina in 1975, the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone, and Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

The Tropical Cyclone Wind Signals are tropical cyclone alert levels issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) to areas within the Philippines that may be affected by tropical cyclone winds and their associated hazards.


  1. National Weather Service Glossary, s.v. "gale".
  2. Glossary of Meteorological Terms Archived 2008-12-11 at the Wayback Machine , NovaLynx Corporation.
  3. "Beaufort wind force scale". Met Officewebsite.
  4. Etymology of gale
  5. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2014-03-23.