The instability of the Kármán vortex street is revisited under a spatio-temporal perspective that allows the taking into account of the advection of the vortices by the external flow. We analyse a simplified point vortex model and show through numerical simulations of its linear impulse response that the system becomes convectively unstable above a certain critical advection velocity. This critical velocity decreases as the aspect ratio approaches its specific value for temporal stability, and increases with the confinement induced by lateral walls. In the limiting unconfined case, direct application of the Briggs–Bers criterion to the dispersion relation gives results in excellent agreement with the numerical simulations. Finally, a direct numerical simulation of the
flow past a confined cylinder is performed, and the actual advection velocity of the resulting vortex street is found to be much larger than the critical advection velocity for convective instability given by our model. The Kármán vortex street is therefore strongly convectively unstable.