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Extreme Weather 1971 Style

April 27, 2017

By Paul Homewood



A walk back down memory lane, with one of my first posts in 2011!

It’s still relevant.


Is our climate becoming more extreme?

There has been much discussion recently about “Climate Disruption” or “Global Weirding”. John Holdren has talked about “increases in floods, wildfires, droughts, heat waves and hurricanes” while Rajendra Pachauri says “Based on observation, we know that there will be more floods, more drought, more heat waves and more extreme precipitation events. These things are happening”.

Al Gore of course is quick to blame any extreme weather event on climate change. Even reputable climate scientists such as Katharine Hayhoe talk about Global Weirding:-

Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a new normal of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change” scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.

It’s a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we’re seeing,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.”

But are we really seeing more extreme weather nowadays?

Our memory of events from years ago tends to blur into the mists of time. Furthermore the global nature of today’s news media often brings to our attention stories which we would not have even known about if they had happened decades ago. I have therefore put together the following record of extreme weather events from 1971, which I hope will provide a certain amount of perspective when looking at what is happening today. Why 1971? Quite simply it is 40 years ago, a nice round number, and of course, before the gradual rise in global temperatures began a few years later.



In the US there were several notable droughts in 1971:-

* Florida – The worst drought on record resulted in 400,000 acres of the Everglades burned by fires. (1)
* Texas – Worst drought since the 1950’s. (2)
* Maryland – The 1958-71 drought produced the largest recorded annual departures from average stream discharge. (3)
* California – The summer of 1971 was “extra hot and long. Rainfall did not completely wet the (tree) root zones the winter of 1971-72 (sic)”. The same report in 1978 stated “the rate of development (of dieback of tree limbs) has been accentuated in recent years”. (4)
* Hawaii – The drought on Maui was described as the worst in 22 years. (5)
* North Carolina – The Air Force Bombing Range Fire destroyed 29300 acres of forest. (6)
* Minnesota – The Little Sioux Fire destroyed 14000 acres following “a period of abnormally dry weather”. (7)
* In total there were 108398 wildfires in the US in 1971 affecting 4.2 million acres. ( Figures for 2010 were 71971 fires and 3.4 million acres). (7a)

In the rest of the world there many more:-

* Australia – In Victoria  what was described as a severe drought began that would last to 1973. (8)
* Ethiopia – 1971 saw the start of a 2 year drought that would claim 300,000 lives. (9)
* Kenya – 150,000 people were affected in what was described in 2006 as even worse than the 2005 drought, itself one of the worst on record. (10)
* Sahel – Mali, Chad, Nigeria and Burkina were in the middle of a drought that lasted from 1967-88 and which was described in Nigeria as the worst since 1913. (11)
* Okinawa – Experienced the worst drought in history. (12)
* China – Much of Northern China was in the grip of what in Beijing was on record as the worst drought ever (before or since). (13)
* Afghanistan – This was the worst in the country’s history. (14)
* Iraq – This severe drought led to the mercury poisoning tragedy. Iran was also affected. No drought there has been as bad since. (15)
* India – The 1971-72 drought affected many states and ranked as the 5th worst since records began in 1876. (16)
* Argentina – The 1971 drought was worse than anything since. (17)



* North Vietnam – The Red River flood was an absolutely terrible disaster leaving 100,000 dead. It was listed by NOAA as one of the century’s top weather events and described as a 250 year event. (18)
* India – Orissa was hit by a cyclone which left 10,800 dead. (19). Also, in Central India the Bundelkhand district was hit by floods (which were followed in 1972 by droughts). (20)
* Malaysia – 32 people were killed and 180,000 affected in the Kuala Lumpur floods in the worst floods since 1926. (21)
* Australia – In January the Canberra flood claimed 7 lives followed a month later by floods in Victoria which were called a 100 year event. In Queensland every month from January to May saw major floods and significant flooding returned in December. (22) (23) (24)
* New Zealand – The New Plymouth area was hit by their worst ever flood after 11.4 inches of rain fell in 24 hours.(25)
* Brazil – 130 dead in Rio de Janeiro floods. (26)
* Quebec – Heavy rainfall caused a massive landslide at the village of Saint-Jean-Vianney, leaving 31 dead. (27)
* Spain – 19 died in floods in Barcelona after 308mm of rain in 24 hours. (28)
* USA – Alaska suffered a major flood, only exceeded by the 1986 flood in the last 50 years. (29)
* USA – In February significant flooding occurred in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.(30)
* USA – In March Southeastern States were affected with Georgia recording record levels in some areas. (30)
* USA – May and June brought significant flooding to Utah, Idaho, Nebraska and Wyoming. The discharge from the Bear River in Utah was considered a 75 year event. (30)
* USA – Significant flooding hit Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia in June and July. (30)
* USA – In August Baltimore was struck by one of the most damaging thunderstorms in 50 years and 14 died from the resulting floods. (30)
* USA – Widespread flooding followed Tropical Storm Doria up the coast from North Carolina to Maine in August. Some streams in New Jersey and Pennsylvania registered record floods. (30)
* USA –  Extended flooding occurred in September and October affecting Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. (30)
* USA – More significant flooding hits Oklahoma and Arkansas in December. (30)



* The Atlantic hurricane season was a “fairly active” one with several notable storms.(31)
* The strongest was Edith, a Category 5, which killed dozens in Nicaragua before turning north and hitting Louisiana. (31)
* Ginger is on record as the longest lasting Atlantic hurricane ever, or at least until the 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane was retroactively discovered to be longer. (31)
* An unnamed storm in August attained hurricane status further north than any other North Atlantic tropical cyclone. (31)
* Canada was unusually on the receiving end of the tail ends of 2 hurricanes, Beth and Doria which both caused huge amounts of damage from flooding. Both were listed by Natural Resources Canada among the 18 major hurricanes of the 20thC. (32)
* In the Pacific the hurricane season was above average with 18 named storms, 6 of which made landfall. This latter number is still the record for a season. (33)
* The typhoon season was also a busy one with 24 typhoons of which 6 were super typhoons. This compares to 7 typhoons including 2 super typhoons in 2010. The season had an extremely active start with a record number of storms before August. (34)
* Typhoon Rose left 130 dead in Hong Kong plus many more at sea. It was described by the Hong Kong Observatory as “one of the most intense and violent” to have affected Hong Kong. (34)
* Cyclone Althea hit Queensland as a Category 4 cyclone in December. Damage was extensive but would have been worse if it had not arrived at low tide. (35)
* The tornado season in the USA was also above average with 58 F3+ tornadoes ( compared to 39 in 2010). (36)
* The worst tornado outbreak occurred in the Mississippi Valley during 2 days in February. 19 tornadoes were spawned claiming 123 lives across 3 states. (37)



* The highest ever UK January temperature was recorded in Gwynedd at 65F. (38)
* In Canada the snowfall record for one season was set on Mount Copeland in British Columbia in the winter of 1971/72. (39)
* In the same winter Mount Baker in Washington broke the US record when 1122 inches fell. (40)
* Montreal’s “snowstorm of the century” left 17 dead with 70mph winds producing second storey drifts. (41)
* Texas and Oklahoma were hit by a giant blizzard which set the state record snow depth in Oklahoma of 36 inches. The National Weather Service in Amarillo lists this blizzard as one of the top 20 weather events in the Panhandle. (42) (43)
* Columbia suffered its worst winter in years resulting in economic losses of $150 million. To make matters worse heavy rains caused the two biggest rivers, the Magdalena and Cuca, to flood vast regions in the Central and Western parts of the country. (44)
* Most of the USA was colder than normal. 1971 nationally was the 36th coldest in the 20thC. (45)




Which year saw the more extreme weather, 1971 or 2010? Who can say. How can anyone compare the severity of, say, a hurricane with that of a drought? Or a flood with blizzard? Katharine Hayhoe complains that our weather is becoming unpredictable but surely it has ever been so. Perhaps we should really start worrying when we stop getting extreme weather events.







  1. HotScot permalink
    April 27, 2017 10:56 am

    A lot of work Paul, well done.

    Sadly, it’s not the weather/climate that’s the problem, it’s humans moaning about it. Man can adapt to many things, but the planet adapts to everything, including man.

    I find it intriguing that around the point in time when the planet had naturally, but accidentally(?) sequestered almost all of it’s atmospheric CO2, man coincidentally appeared and started burning stuff.

    Perhaps the planet ain’t daft.

    • Joe Public permalink
      April 27, 2017 11:24 am

      Thanks Jamal

  2. quaesoveritas permalink
    April 27, 2017 11:21 am

    Any thoughts on yesterdays RHS report on the effect of climate change on gardens?
    Lots of dubious coverage of this on the BBC News Channel yesterday but not so much on the BBC website.

    • HotScot permalink
      April 27, 2017 12:16 pm

      The BBC link is a lot of preposterous nonsense.

      We have lived in our house for 30 years. When we first moved in, we cut the grass a couple of times a month, perhaps once a week at a push.

      The grass was cut last weekend and it needs to be cut again today. Amongst other plants flourishing is a small native British bush that had been in the garden for decades before we moved in, is now 6 or 7 times the size it was, despite regular trimming.

      Perhaps its where we live, close to the junctions of the M25 and the A2 and M20 junctions where, presumably, there is a high concentration of vehicle emitted CO2 in the atmosphere. But we certainly suffer no ill effects from it, and my wife is mildly asthmatic.

      • quaesoveritas permalink
        April 27, 2017 1:02 pm

        One of the effects was supposedly the need to cut grass more often, but also less rain in the south which I would have thought were contradictory.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        April 27, 2017 1:59 pm

        You;ll have all that extra Nitrogen fertilization from diesel engines as well. Nitrous oxide (N2O), Nitric oxide (NO), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Nitrogen in the atmosphere (N2) is stable but Nitrogen is required for healthy plant growth (Growmore 7 percent nitrogen, 3.1 percent phosphorus and 5.8 percent potassium)

        Nitrogen is fixed from all three to a greater or lesser extent, lightening also produces NOX which fertilizes to soil, but is harmless to people because it is natural.

      • April 28, 2017 1:01 pm

        HotScot have you considered that your garden has simply become more fertile? Perhaps all unbeknown to you, you have been practicing good soil management.

      • HotScot permalink
        April 28, 2017 5:18 pm


        well if doing nothing more than trimming hedges and cutting the grass can be called good soil management, then the wife’s a seasoned expert. 🙂

    • mikewaite permalink
      April 27, 2017 12:32 pm

      It was about this time last year that Monty Don was complaining about the delaying effect on planting out of the countrywide cold wet spring. So according to the RHS global warming has advanced enormously in just 12 months. A worrying trend .
      Meanwhile in the real world the sexual mayhem that heralds spring in Cheshire started 2 weeks early this year and the pond was full of frogspawn by the end of March . On the other hand the February gold daffodils , usually out just on the last day of February were 1 week late this year . Pick your data and you can prove anything.

    • roger permalink
      April 27, 2017 1:05 pm

      The RHS report on BBC was another outrageous affront to the intelligence of viewers as Schuckman encouraged highly qualified horticulturists off piste and into the speculative realms of so called climate science.
      This risible attempt to imply that it was warming/raining more in some parts and cooling with drought in others earlier and later in the year in summer/winter and both, permutate any combination to suit, was made hilarious as the piece ended and we went to the weatherman, where the presenter asked him if and when the warm weather would return as it had been cold everywhere of late!

    • April 27, 2017 1:51 pm

      As a result of the RHS producing that report, I have informed them that I am not renewing my membership, as I don’t want it being wasted on propaganda based on false science. I await their response. There is a whole chunk in the report (which is based on the usual IPCC SPM nonsense, aided by the Met Office and Reading University) covering extreme weather events in the UK over the last 40 years, with lots of ‘projections’ as to how things will get worse. It is full of the usual ‘could’, ‘likely’, ‘very lightly’ etc.

      That means I have now saved a lot of money, having cancelled membership of the RSPB, the NT and now the RHS.

    • dennisambler permalink
      April 28, 2017 8:48 am

      Just more recycling…..

      Report reveals extreme impact of global warming on Europe
      Spaniards could be sunning themselves on Great Yarmouth beach
      and Greeks could be cruising down the Rhine if global warming
      patterns continue, a UEA report revealed today.

      Southern Europeans could be heading northward for their summer
      break and British holidaymakers could be boycotting Benidorm
      as temperatures rise to unbearable levels within the next
      twenty years.

      Scientists from eight European countries have spent the past
      three years estimating extreme climate change and its impact
      on six specific economic sectors over the next eighty years.

      The comprehensive MICE report – Modelling the Impact of
      Climate Extremes – is published this week by the University of
      East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and concludes that the
      issue of global warming tends to be ignored by decision makers
      in business and governments because of the long-term

      The Sunday Times September 10, 2006

      Minister warns of ‘desert gardens’

      GARDENERS should grub up their roses and
      rhododendrons and replace them with yuccas and
      lavenders in preparation for the hot, dry
      summers that climate change will bring to
      Britain, Ian Pearson, the environment minister,
      will warn this week, write Jonathan Milne and
      Jonathan Leake.

      Pearson is to present evidence from scientists
      engaged in botanical research at Kew Gardens
      suggesting that rising temperatures are sharply
      altering the growing patterns of many British

  3. tom0mason permalink
    April 27, 2017 11:50 am

    Extreme weather the Gorian knot of meteorological flim-flam.

    • tom0mason permalink
      April 28, 2017 2:01 pm

      28 Apr: Reuters: Exclusive: Trump says U.S. wants fair treatment in climate pact
      By Stephen J. Adler, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
      (Writing by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Howard Goller)
      President Donald Trump complained on Thursday that the United States was being unfairly treated in the Paris Climate Agreement and told Reuters he would announce a decision in about two weeks on whether Washington would remain in the accord…

      Trump, who will mark the 100th day of his presidency on Saturday, told Reuters in an interview he would announce his decision “in about two weeks,” but complained that China, India, Russia and other countries were paying too little to help poorer countries battle climate change under the agreement’s Green Climate Fund.
      “It’s not a fair situation because they are paying virtually nothing and we are paying massive amounts of money,” he said.
      Asked for a hint of what his decision might be, he said: “I can say this, we want to be treated fairly.”…


      28 Apr: Fox News: Jade Scipioni: Congress Members Urge Trump to Re-Work Paris Agreement
      “As you know, President Obama pledged a 26 to 28% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emission by 2025, compared to a 2005 baseline,” the Congress members wrote in a letter addressed to Trump.
      “This target would cause irreparable harm to our economy, particularly our manufacturing and energy sectors, and should be rejected.”…
      They say the U.S. should instead present a new pledge that doesn’t harm our economy but instead showcases plans to drive technological innovation to help ensure a future for fossil fuels within the context of the global climate agenda. Additionally, they advise Trump to not make any additional transfers to the Green Climate Fund…

      Representatives Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Billy Long (R-MO), Chris Collins (R-NY), Gregg Harper (R-MS), and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) all signed the letter.

  4. Broadlands permalink
    April 27, 2017 12:42 pm

    “John Holdren has talked about “increases in floods, wildfires, droughts, heat waves and hurricanes” while Rajendra Pachauri says “Based on observation, we know that there will be more floods, more drought, more heat waves and more extreme precipitation events. These things are happening”.

    It’s worth noting in many, most? of these assertions it is the future… Not evidence from the past. It’s “new normals”… all based on scary forecasts and projections…until these fail to materialize?

    • bea permalink
      April 27, 2017 3:17 pm

      “…Pachauri says… These things are happening.”

      Or not. As with his trial for sexual harassment. Two years in, and still nothing. Obviously, he will be protected until the next ploy of pretending to have Alzheimer’s.

  5. Gerry, England permalink
    April 27, 2017 1:00 pm

    Perhaps the time to worry is now when people like Heyhoe show such ignorance of the past.

  6. Tom O permalink
    April 27, 2017 1:26 pm

    I actually will start worrying about the weather and its severity when the report is something other than “this is the worst (pick your problem) since ….” In other words, as long as there was an event from the past that was as severe as or more severe than the current “worst since,” we obviously haven’t passed into unknown territory. Their scream of “worst evah” has some merit only when it truly IS the worst ever. So far, I haven’t really seen many “worst evah” events in my life accept when I consider politics and politicians.

  7. April 27, 2017 3:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  8. mikewaite permalink
    April 28, 2017 7:38 am

    And now here is a BBC newsflash : 28th April 2017, 8.35 am , and , after 40 years of AGW, 30 years of appropriation of agricultural and recreational land for renewables ,coal power generation exceeds metered wind (1.12GW v 0.91GW)

    In my dreams of course , but the data is genuine .

  9. Europeanonion permalink
    April 28, 2017 8:15 am

    And there was I thinking Paul was on holiday!

  10. Bloke down the pub permalink
    April 28, 2017 9:00 am

    ‘ Even reputable climate scientists such as Katharine Hayhoe.

    Hmm, not convinced on that one.

  11. tom0mason permalink
    April 28, 2017 1:59 pm

    Consider the massive uptake and development in private and personal communications since the 1970.
    Back then in most countries ownership of private telephones were strictly controlled by state or quasi-state controlled companies. Mass communications was in the main through newspapers, and via the new fangled local TV and radio station or the state run channels. Ticker-tape was the speedy way of getting news distributed from news agencies and the stock markets. There was no internet.

    These day personal communications is ubiquitous and for some a human right. This I contend has lead to the perceived increase in adverse and so called ‘extreme’ weather, not that there is more of it but that there is more reporting of it.
    It is a fad, a fashion and as such does not necessarily indicate that weather and climate is in any way much different from what happened in pastimes but it does get more reporting, and more detail, over the millions (billions?) of personal, private, and public communication channels.

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