A squall is a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed which is usually associated with active weather, such as rain showers, thunderstorms, or heavy snow. [The Weather Channel. [http://www.weather.com/glossary/s.html Weather Glossary: S.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.] Squalls refer to an increase in the sustained winds over a short time interval, as there may be higher gusts during a squall event. [Australian Bureau of Meteorology. [http://www.bom.gov.au/info/wwords/ Weather Words.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.] They usually occur in a region of strong mid-level height falls,clarifyme|September 2008 or mid-level tropospheric cooling, which force strong localized upward motions at the leading edge of the region of cooling, which then enhances local downward motions just in its wake.

Origin of the term

The word appears to be Nordic in origin, but its etymology is considered obscure. It probably has its roots in the word "skvala" [ [http://www.answers.com/topic/squall?cat=technology squall: Definition and Much More from Answers.com ] ] an Old Norse word meaning literally, "to squeal". [Georoots News. [http://www.georoots.org/Georoots_News/Volume_1/georoots_v1_5.htm Georoots News V.1#5: Changes in the Wind.] Retrieved on 2006-12-30.] The first known use of the term on surface weather analyses was in the United States in the late Nineteenth Century on U. S. Signal Corp Maps, begun in 1871.

Character of the wind

The term "squall" is universally used to refer to a sudden wind-speed increase, both historically and in the present day. To be called a squall in the United States, the wind must increase at least 18 miles per hour (8 meters per second) and must attain a top speed of at least 25 miles per hour (11 meters per second), lasting at least a full minute in duration. In Australia, a squall is defined to last for several minutes before the wind returns to the long term mean value. In either case, a squall is defined to last about half as long as the definition of sustained wind in its respective country. Usually, this sudden violent wind is associated with briefly heavy precipitation.

Regional terms


Known locally as pamperos, they are used to describe strong downsloped winds that move across the pampas, eventually making it to the Atlantic Ocean. [Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 10Rev Ed edition (7 April 2005)]

Central America

Offshore Central America, the term gully squall is used to describe strong increases of the wind forced through sharp mountain valleys on the Pacific Ocean side of the isthmus.


Bayamo is a term used to describe squalls emanating from tropical thunderstorms near the Bight of Bayamo. [WGN-TV. [http://wgntv.trb.com/news/weather/wgntv-weatherwords-b,0,1454739.story?coll=wgntv-weather-4 Weather Words - B.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.]

East Indies

In the East Indies, brubu is a name for a squall [ [http://ggweather.com/winds.html Wind Names ] ]

Pacific Northwest - United States

In the Pacific Northwest, a squall is a short but furious rainstorm with strong winds, often small in area and moving at high speed, especially as a maritime term. Such a strong outflow occurring in fjords and inlets is referred to by mariners as a squamish.

outh Africa

Bull's Eye Squall is a term used offshore South Africa, describing a squall forming in fair weather. It is named for the appearance of the small isolated cloud marking the top of the squall.Golden Gate Weather Services. [http://ggweather.com/winds.html Names of Winds.] ]

Philippines [West Pacific]

In most parts of the country, squalls are called subasko characterized by heavy rains driven by blustery winds. Local fishermen at sea are often on the lookout for signs of impending squalls on the open water and rush to shore at its early early hints.

outheast Asia

Barat is a term for a northwest squall in Manado Bay in Sulawesi.

evere weather

A squall line is an organized line of thunderstorms. It is classified as a multi-cell cluster, meaning a thunderstorm complex comprising many individual updrafts. They are also called multi-cell lines. Squalls are sometimes associated with hurricanes or other cyclones, but they can also occur independently. Most commonly, independent squalls occur along front lines, and may contain heavy precipitation, hail, frequent lightning, dangerous straight line winds, and possibly funnel clouds, tornadoes and waterspouts. [Weatherquestions.com. [http://www.weatherquestions.com/What_is_a_squall_line.htm What is a Squall Line?] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.] Squall lines require significant low-level warmth and humidity, a nearby frontal zone, and vertical wind shear from an angle behind the frontal boundary. [Wilfried Jacobs. [http://www.zamg.ac.at/eumetrain/EUMeTrain2005/Squall/intro.htm EUMeTrain: Case Study on Squall Line.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.] The strong winds at the surface are usually a reflection of dry air intruding into the line of storms, which when saturated, falls quickly to ground level due to its much higher density before it spreads out downwind. [Thinkquest. [http://library.thinkquest.org/C0112425/stu_thundertornado.htm#2 Meteorology Online: Squall.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.] In England, a squall associated with tempestuous weather is known as a blunk. Significant squall lines with multiple bow echoes are known as derechos. [Robert H. Johns and Jeffry S. Evans. Storm Prediction Center. [http://www.spc.ncep.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/derechofacts.htm Derecho Facts.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.]

quall Line Life Cycle

There are several forms of mesoscale meteorology, including simplistic isolated thunderstorms unrelated to advancing cold fronts, to the more complex daytime/nocturnal Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) and Mesoscale Convective Complex (MCC), to squall line thunderstorms.

quall Line Formation

The main driving force behind squall line creation is attributed to the process of in-filling of multiple thunderstorms and/or a single area of thunderstorms expanding outward within the leading space of an advancing cold front.


The leading area of a squall line is composed primarily of multiple updrafts, or singular regions of an updraft, rising from ground level to the highest extend of the troposhere, condensing water and building a dark, ominous clouds to one with a noticeable overshooting top and anvil (thanks to synoptic scale winds). Because of the chaotic nature of updrafts and downdrafts, pressure perturbations are important.

Pressure Perturbations

Pressure perturbations within an extent of a thunderstorm are noteworthy. With buoyancy rapid within the lower and mid-levels of a mature thunderstorm, one might believe that low pressure dominates in the mesoscale environment. However, this is not the case. With downdrafts ushering colder air from mid-levels, hitting ground and propagating away in all directions, high pressure is to be found widely at surface levels, usually indicative of strong (potentially damaging winds).

Wind Shear

Wind shear is an important aspect to measuring the potential of squall line severity and duration. In low to medium shear environments, mature thunderstorms will contribute modest amounts of downdrafts, enough to turn will aid in create a leading edge lifting mechanism - the gust front. In high shear environments created by opposing low level jet winds and synoptic winds, updrafts and consequential downdrafts can be much more intense (common in supercell mesocyclones). The cold air outflow leaves the trailing area of the squall line to the mid-level jet, which aids in downdraft processes.

quall Line Evolution


As thunderstorms fill into a distinct line, strong leading-edge updrafts - occasionally visible to a ground observer in the form of a shelf cloud, appear as an ominous sign of potential severe weather.

Beyond the strong winds because of updraft/downdraft behavior, heavy rain (and hail) is another sign of a squall line. In the winter, squall lines can occur albeit less frequently - bringing heavy snow and/or thunder and lightning - usually over inland lakes (i.e. Great Lakes region).

Bow Echoes

Following the initial passage of a squall line, light to moderate stratiform precipitation is also common. A Bow echo is frequently seen on the northern and southern most reaches of squall line thunderstorms (via satellite imagery. This is where the northern and southern ends curl backwards towards the middle portions of the squall line, making a "bow" shape. Bow echoes are frequently featured within supercell mesoscale systems.


The northern end of the squall line is commonly referred to as the cyclonic end, with the southern side rotating anticyclonically. Because of the coriolis force, the northern end may evolve further, creating a "comma shaped" mesolow, or may continue in a squall-like pattern.

quall Line Dissipation

As supercell or multi-cell thunderstorms disappate because of a weak shear, poor lifting mechanisms: (e.g. considerable terrain or lack of daytime heating. The squall line associated gust front may outrun the squall line, the synoptic scale low may fill - leading to a weaking of a cold front, or the thunderstorm has exhausted its updrafts, becoming purely a downdraft dominated system. The areas of disappating squall line thunderstorms may be regions of low CAPE, low humidity, insufficient wind shear, or poor synoptic dynamics (e.g. an upper level low filling) leading to frontolysis.

From here, a general thinning of a squall line will occur: within, winds decaying with time, outflow boundaries weakening updrafts substantially, and clouds losing their thickness.

igns in the sky

Shelf clouds and roll clouds are usually seen above the leading edge of a squall, also known as a thunderstorm's gust front. [National Weather Service Forecast Office, Springfield, Missouri. [http://www.crh.noaa.gov/sgf/?n=spotter_squall_lines Storm Spotter Online Training.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.] From the time these low cloud features appear in the sky, one can expect a sudden increase in the wind in less than 15 minutes.

Tropical cyclones

Tropical cyclones normally have squalls coincident with spiral bands of greater curvature than many mid-latitude systems due to their smaller size. This squalls can harbor waterspouts and tornadoes due to the significant vertical wind shear which exists in the vicinity of a tropical cyclone's outer bands.

Winter weather

Snow squalls can be spawned by an intrusion of cold air aloft over a relatively warm surface layer. Lake effect snows can be in the form of a snow squall. In Scotland, snow squalls are known as bluffarts.

Literary usage

Squall is a vocabulary word in the book "Sarah, Plain and Tall" in the title of the book "White Squall", written by John Conroy Hutcheson in 1900. [Athelstane E-Books. [http://www.athelstane.co.uk/jc_hutch/whisqual/about.htm John Conroy Hutcheson.] Retrieved on 2006-11-19.]

ee also

* Freak wave
* Squall line
* White squall


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Squall — (skw[add]l), n. [Cf. Sw. sqval an impetuous running of water, sqvalregn a violent shower of rain, sqvala to stream, to gush.] A sudden and violent gust of wind often attended with rain or snow. [1913 Webster] The gray skirts of a lifting squall.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • squall´er — squall 1 «skwl», noun, verb. –n. 1. a sudden, violent gust of wind, often with rain, snow, or hail. Squalls may be accompanied by thunder and lightning. SYNONYM(S): blast. 2. Informal, Figurative. a disturbance or commotion; trouble: »The squall… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Squall — Squall, n. A loud scream; a harsh cry. [1913 Webster] There oft are heard the notes of infant woe, The short, thick sob, loud scream, and shriller squall. Pope. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • squall|y — «SKW lee», adjective, squall|i|er, squall|i|est. 1. having many sudden and violent gusts of wind: »squally weather. 2. blowing in squalls; gu …   Useful english dictionary

  • Squall — Squall, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Squalled} (skw[add]ld); p. pr. & vb. n. {Squalling}.] [Icel. skvala. Cf. {Squeal}.] To cry out; to scream or cry violently, as a woman frightened, or a child in anger or distress; as, the infant squalled. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • squall — squall; squall·er; …   English syllables

  • squall — squall1 [skwôl] n. [< Scand, as in Swed sqval, a sudden shower, downpour: for prob. base see SQUALL2] 1. a brief, violent windstorm, usually with rain or snow 2. Informal trouble or disturbance vi. to storm briefly; blow a squall squally adj.… …   English World dictionary

  • squall — index fracas Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • squall — ► NOUN 1) a sudden violent gust of wind or localized storm. 2) a loud cry. ► VERB ▪ (of a baby or small child) cry noisily and continuously. DERIVATIVES squally adjective. ORIGIN probably an alteration of SQUEAL …   English terms dictionary

  • squall — squall1 squallish, adj. /skwawl/, n. 1. a sudden, violent gust of wind, often accompanied by rain, snow, or sleet. 2. a sudden disturbance or commotion. v.i. 3. to blow as a squall. [1690 1700; perh. special use of SQUALL2] squall2 …   Universalium

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