The 1987 Great Storm - What is a Sting Jet?

Sting Jet

The famous Great Storm cut a swathe of damage across South-east England in the early hours of the 16th October 1987. It was a good example of a storm with a Sting Jet. But what is a Sting Jet?

What is the Sting Jet?

Low pressure areas:

  • Have well understood causes.
  • Sometimes produce very strong winds.
  • Are generally well represented by our weather forecast models.

Experience has shown that:

  • The most damaging winds occur in a very small region, perhaps only 50 km across.
  • This is close to the 'tail' of the 'head' of cloud that wraps around the low pressure centre.
  • Hence the 'sting in the tail' of the cyclone.

We now know that:

  • The 'sting in the tail' is produced by a distinct jet of air- the Sting Jet.
  • It starts out three or four kilometres above the ground and descends over three or four hours.
  • Snow and rain falling into it evaporate and cool it as it descends, helping to accelerate it to high speeds.
  • It can accelerate to more than 100 mph.

You can find out much more detail in our  Sting Jet Explainer Sting Jet Explainer (PDF, 1 MB)

Last updated: 12 October 2012