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Beaufort Scale – Definition

The Beaufort Scale Definition

The Beaufort wind force scale was devised in 1805 by Commander Francis Beaufort of the British navy as a tool for observing and classifying wind force at sea.

A Little More on What is the Beaufort Wind Scale

Initially, it was based on the effect of wind on a fully equipped man-of-war, but later in 1838, it became a requirement for log entries in all the ships belonging to the Royal Navy fleet. It was much later adopted by the International Meteorological Committee for international use in weather telegraphy after it was altered to incorporate the observations of the state of the sea and phenomena on land as criteria.

The original Beaufort scale was calibrated based on Beaufort’s assessment of the effects that wind had on a fully-rigged man-of-war. He came up with 13 states of wind force on his vessel and then ranked them from 0 to 12. The scale, however, did not use the speed of wind in its measurements and in the 20th-century efforts were made to try and correlate the scale and speed of the wind.

In 1912, such an attempt was made by the International Commission for Weather Telegraphers, but it was unfortunately interrupted by World War 1. Then in 1921, G.C. Simpson was requested to formulate various equivalents, and in 1926, they were accepted by the committee.

The International Meteorological Committee in 1939, adopted a table of values which referred to an anemometer placed at the height of 6 meters or 20 feet. However, the official weather services of the United States and Great Britain did not immediately accept this new table since they used an earlier scale that referred to an anemometer placed at the height of 11 meters or 36 feet. In 1955, the US weather bureau increased the Beaufort scale values from 12 to 17.

Nowadays, professional meteorologists rarely use this scale since it has been replaced by methods of determining wind speeds that are more objective such as the use of anemometers and the tracking of wind echoes using Doppler radar. When estimating the characteristics of wind over a large area, the Beaufort scale comes in handy. It is also used to determine wind force in places with no wind instruments or to measure the effects of different velocities of wind on objects on land or sea.

References for Beaufort Scale

Academic Research on the Beaufort Scale

  • Did the Beaufort scale or the wind climate change?, Peterson, E. W., & Hasse, L. (1987). Journal of physical oceanography, 17(7), 1071-1074. This paper investigates the possibility of long-term variations resulting from the Beaufort scale of wind speeds from the frequency distributions of the observations of about 300,000 ships.
  • A new Beaufort equivalent scale, Lindau, R. (1995, May). In Proc. Int. COADS Winds Workshop (pp. 232-252). This study compares Beaufort estimates with simultaneous wind speed measurements to determine their relationship in the form of a Beaufort equivalent scale.
  • Comparing the theoretical versions of the Beaufort scale, the T-Scale and the Fujita scale, Meaden, G. T., Kochev, S., Kolendowicz, L., Kosa-Kiss, A., Marcinoniene, I., Sioutas, M., … & Tyrrell, J. (2007). Atmospheric research, 83(2-4), 446-449. This paper discusses how the International Beaufort Scale and the T-Scale share a similar root in having a relationship with an established scientific basis while the Fujita’s Scale introduces a criterion that makes its intensities non-integral with Beaufort.
  • Criteria for environmental wind conditions, Melbourne, W. H. (1978). Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics, 3(2-3), 241-249. This article discusses the relationship between peak gust and mean wind speeds since people feel people feel most the forces caused by peak gust wind speeds and associated gradients.
  • From calm to storm: the origins of the Beaufort wind scale, Wheeler, D., & Wilkinson, C. (2004). The Mariner’s Mirror, 90(2), 187-201. This paper discusses the history of the Beaufort scale from how it was developed to how it came to be universally recognized by meteorologists for over a century.
  • Toward a revised Beaufort equivalent scale, Da Silva, A. M., Young, C. C., & Levitus, S. (1995, May). In Proc. Int. COADS Winds Workshop (pp. 270-286). NOAA-ERL, IFM (Kiel). This study produces separate objective analyses of estimated and measured wind speed climatology for the world’s oceans from 1970 to 1989 using observations from the COADS Compressed Marine Reports.
  • The emergence of the Beaufort Scale, Fry, H. T. (1967). The Mariner’s Mirror, 53(4), 311-313. This article presents the source of inspiration which drove Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort to devise the Beaufort scale in 1806.
  • Comparison of pedestrian wind acceptability criteria, Ratcliff, M. A., & Peterka, J. A. (1990). Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics, 36, 791-800. This paper suggests several pedestrian wind comfort criteria to aid city planners and architects in evaluating the safety and comfort of areas around planned developments.
  • A multifractal equivalent of the Beaufort scale for sea‐state, Kerman, B. R. (1993). Geophysical research letters, 20(4), 297-300. This article reports how the surface ocean is a multi-fractal process under the sufficient high winds and consists of breaking wave singularities.
  • The Beaufort scale of winds–its relevance, and its use by sailors, Singleton, F. (2008). Weather, 63(2), 37-41. This paper examines how sailors used the Beaufort scale to measure the speed and force of wind to plan their voyages accordingly.

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