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42883.  Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:16 pm Reply with quote

I was thinking about a clip of Michael Fish saying:

"Apparently a woman phoned the Met Office earlier today to say she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you’re watching don’t worry, there isn’t"

Then the question "What happened next".

However, this article, which superfically at least seems to have been written by someone who knows what they're on about (though it is unsourced), paints a different picture. It seems to be saying that Fish was technically correct, but really it was a bit of a cock-up by the Met Office.

At the time, the Met Office [..] had undergone cutbacks and did not have a weather ship in the area and it was to be another ten years before automatic weather buoys were in place. At lunchtime on October 15th, Fish had only been going on the satellite images available to him that still indicated a typical depression that would track along the Channel with winds on its southern edge of between Force 5 and 7. That meant it could safely be assumed the strongest gusts would affect Northern France and the Low Countries.

The Met Office saw [the storm increase in magnitude] but still failed to warn the South of the impending disaster in its early evening forecast on the BBC. It still believed the depression would track along the Channel. By 9.30pm, forecasters were still unruffled and warned only of 50km/h winds (Force 9-10) in the South

[The storm] veered north and tracked along the north coasts of Devon and Cornwall and then across the Midlands. Forecasters at the London Weather Centre saw it, but too late to warn the South. Most people were already asleep, and a flash weather warning was issued to the emergency services. It told them to expect ‘extreme wind conditions’.

Technically, Fish had been correct - no hurricane was expected and what has become known as the Great Storm was not a hurricane. But it was an apparent failure, which the Met Office has even now, failed to live down.

42888.  Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:29 pm Reply with quote

For people who worked in the financial markets at the time, as I did, the whole thing was inextricably linked with the huge stock market crash which happened virtually simultaneously. It felt very much like the End of Days - I recall coming out of the office and being slightly taken aback to see that the buses were still running.

42889.  Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:05 pm Reply with quote

I'd moved to London in early October of 87 to do a Masters at Imperial and had a room in a converted loft. As my bed was in the part of the loft where the roof was slanted down the storm was blowing about 3 feet above my head.If I had opened the skylight (or if it had blown off as I was expecting) I could have sailed Peter Pan like over the roof tops of London.

The next morning I went for a walk around Kew and saw a large tree that had been partially uprooted leaning nonchatlantly against a 3 story house.

gerontius grumpus
42918.  Tue Jan 03, 2006 6:09 pm Reply with quote

I thought the January storms of 1990 were much worse than the 'hurricane' of 1987, was it just talked up because it hit the south east corner of England more than those unimportant other bits?

42952.  Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:03 am Reply with quote

There was an interesting programme on BBC4 last night about the jet stream. Interesting to note that there could have been something for the retractions special. In one episode (I forget which series) there was a question about the balloons that the Japanese flew over the Pacific in the jet stream to drop bombs on the USA causing the only 6 mainland deaths of the war. I also believe that Stephen said that this was the first discovery of the jet stream (I could be wrong about that).

Anyway, the first discovery according to that programme was in 1926 by another Japanese researcher that plotted the speed of high altitude weather balloons to discover winds over Tokyo at 30,000 feet above 100mph. The reason the guy is so little known (I've forgotten his name already damn it) is that he knew his paper wouldn't be read in other countries if it was in Japanese so he published it in Esperanto so nobody in the rest of the world could read it!

Still the show went on to talk about other things related to the jet stream, one of those being the 87 storm (the programme was first aired in summer 2002 I believe). As ever the clip was shown of Micheal Fish. They even went on to the bit when he says that it will be windy though over the South and France. There wasn't anything though about what Micheal was really talking about (the mother of the member of the production crew that lived in Florida).

It's amazing how far climate science has come since 2002. What the show discussed was a "possibility" that global warming could influence the jet stream. Global warming was said like it was something new and spectacular. When the unusual weather of 2002 was discussed they didn't even mention that it was an El Nino year. Most of the talk was focussed on methods of improving weather prediction. One guy had a small weather plane about 4foot accross that could fly around the oceans taking readings. No surprise that the thing hasn't taken off (no pun intended). In those 4 years the entire role that the plane could make has been replaced by satellites (the inability of satellites being the main reason for needing the plane).

42954.  Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:18 am Reply with quote

I did some quick research and this looks like the right stuff:

I believe the guy's name is Wasaburo Oishi. Wikipedia isn't up to date though. It has the first discovery as being in 1944 bobming raids on Japan (also featured in the programme).

Another reference here under "7 No ignorance of memory"!

42956.  Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:35 am Reply with quote

I also believe that Stephen said that this was the first discovery of the jet stream

Actually that the Japanese were aware of the jetstream whereas other countries weren't, I think - which fits with what you posted.

42957.  Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:38 am Reply with quote

oh I remember now :-)

44183.  Sun Jan 08, 2006 6:05 pm Reply with quote

Well, I think this has potential. One more question, addressed to a different kind of special knowledge which we also have on these boards: calling all youngsters (anyone who wasn't born in 1987, say) - does any of this mean anything to you? Are you aware of the 1987 storm at all? Have you heard of Michael Fish? Or is this a topic which will only work for older viewers?

Oh yes, I have heard of him and have seen many clips. I happen to have done Geography at GCSE and it was one of many case studies we had to look at. I learnt someone was crushed by a chimney and a milkman had a narrow escape as his float was crushed by a tree as he had just got out. Oh and he sold the remaining pints the next day..

222755.  Tue Oct 23, 2007 7:10 am Reply with quote


222847.  Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:01 am Reply with quote

You wouldn't have been so damn satisfied if you'd triggered a tsunami and then got hit with a class-action suit by the entire population of eastern America, I'm guessing.

Welcome back, incidentally.

222993.  Tue Oct 23, 2007 12:06 pm Reply with quote

Yaaay Garrick's back! I am rather enjoying the mental image of you jumping up and down on the fault line.

223415.  Wed Oct 24, 2007 12:07 pm Reply with quote


223771.  Thu Oct 25, 2007 11:38 am Reply with quote


294328.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 12:48 am Reply with quote

Back to that 1987 storm in S. England: This storm was *not* a hurricane: a hurricane is a warm-cored tropical system, without fronts, featuring a calm, often cloudless eye, with the strongest winds circulating around the "eyewall". The strongest winds associated with the 1987 storm were well removed from its center. It was an Atlantic depression which deepened explosively and suddenly, and took an unusual track for such an intense system, from the Bay of Biscay northeastwards into the North Sea.
This storm did have areas of hurricane force winds embedded its south-east quadrant, which affected the English Channel and the southernmost land areas of SE England: But, I repeat, it was not a hurricane!

By the way, the US NOAA/National Hurricane Center's qualification for a tropical system to be named a "hurricane" is for a minimum "sustained" windspeed (not gusts) of least 64 knots or 74mph, over a period of ONE MINUTE. See this link:

Gusts are a few seconds (3-5 s) wind peak. Typically in a hurricane environment, the value of the maximum 3 second gust over a 1 minute period is on the order of 1.3 times (or 30% higher than) than the 1 min sustained wind.

One complication with the use of the 1 min averaging time for the standard for sustained wind in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific tropical cyclone basins (where the United States has the official World Meteorological Organization tropical cyclone advisory responsibilities) is that in most of the rest of the world, a 10 min. averaging time is utilized for "sustained wind". While one can utilize a simple ratio to convert from peak 10 min wind to peak 1 min wind (roughly 12% higher for the latter), such systematic differences to make interbasin comparison of tropical cyclones around the world problematic.

When referring to the Great Storm, and whether hurricane force winds occurred, the UK Meteorological Office was quoting mean speeds over a 10 minute period as well as the Beaufort Force 12 definition (64kt or greater) over at least a 10 minute period, commonly one hour: this is a very different standard.


The winds in the 1987 event were not measured according to the tropical cyclone standard: If the 10 minute mean wind speeds were converted using the 12% rule (see above), then "hurricane force" would have been used as widely as the stations reporting "Beaufort Force 11"

Winds reached Force 11 (56-63 knots) in many coastal regions of south-east England

Multiply the Force 11 average (59.5kt) by 1.12 = 66.64kts, which places the one minute sustained averages into the "hurricane force" category. Regarding the Royal Sovereign Lightship measurement of 75kts, if taken over a 10 minute period, would indicate a "one minute mean speed" there of over 84kts. But this reading was a *one hour* mean. I do not know what the conversion is from a "one hour mean" to a "10 minute mean" is, but it would be safe to say that it would result in a more conservative figure than a 10 minute mean. Adding another 5% (which also maybe conservative) to 84kt gives 88kt (>100mph). This would be equivalent to a category 2 hurricane in the tropical realm.

In 1987, there were very few observing stations in the English Channel, where the core of strongest winds were. A number of anemometers were destroyed on the South Coast. The strongest gust recorded during the storm was 119kt (137mph) in Brittany. There was an unofficial report of a 145mph gust from a ship.

It appears as if the strength of this storm has been a little underestimated, in comparison to tropical systems.


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