Beaufort Wind Scale

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

In 1805, Sir Francis Beaufort, a rear admiral in the British navy, created the Beaufort Wind Scale to describe the wind's effect on sailing ships. He used knots to indicate the speed of the wind. This chart shows wind speed in miles per hour, based on the conversion of 1 knot = 1.15 miles per hour.

Appearance of Wind Effects
Number Name Miles Per Hour On Water On Land
0 Calm less than 1 Sea surface smooth and mirror-like Calm, smoke rises vertically
1 Light air 1-3 Scaly ripples, no foam crests Smoke drift indicates wind direction, still wind vanes
2 Light breeze 4-7 Small wavelets, crests glassy, no breaking Wind felt on face, leaves rustle, vanes begin to move
3 Gentle breeze 8-12 Large wavelets, crests begin to break, scattered whitecaps Leaves and small twigs constantly moving, light flags extended
4 Moderate breeze 13-18 Small waves 1-4 ft. becoming longer, numerous whitecaps Dust, leaves, and loose paper lifted, small tree branches move
5 Fresh breeze 19-24 Moderate waves 4-8 ft taking longer form, many whitecaps, some spray Small trees in leaf begin to sway
6 Strong breeze 25-31 Larger waves 8-13 ft, whitecaps common, more spray Larger tree branches moving, whistling in wires
7 Near gale 32-38 Sea heaps up, waves 13-20 ft, white foam streaks off breakers Whole trees moving, resistance felt walking against wind
8 Gale 39-46 Moderately high (13-20 ft) waves of greater length, edges of crests begin to break into spindrift, foam blown in streaks Whole trees in motion, resistance felt walking against wind
9 Strong gale 47-54 High waves (20 ft), sea begins to roll, dense streaks of foam, spray may reduce visibility Slight structural damage occurs, slate blows off roofs
10 Storm 55-63 Very high waves (20-30 ft) with overhanging crests, sea white with densely blown foam, heavy rolling, lowered visibility Seldom experienced on land, trees broken or uprooted, "considerable structural damage"
11 Violent storm 64-72 Exceptionally high (30-45 ft) waves, foam patches cover sea, visibility more reduced
12 Hurricane 73+ Air filled with foam, waves over 45 ft, sea completely white with driving spray, visibility greatly reduced
Source: NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center

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