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Extreme Weather In 1971

July 31, 2021

By Paul Homewood


Montreal’s “Storm of the Century” – March 1971

With COP26 looming large and the public beginning to be aware of the crippling cost of Net Zero, the media are desperately stoking alarm over every bad weather event that comes along. They have given up all pretence of objective reporting, and shamelessly blame every flood, heatwave, drought and storm on climate change.

As you will be aware, I have been running a monthly series on Britain’s weather 50 years ago, to compare with this year’s. But what about the weather around the world in 1971?

The summary below gives a flavour. (Full details are here.)

I defy anybody to claim that this year’s weather has been any worse:


Much of the world was gripped by severe drought in 1971.

The Sahel was in the middle of a terrible drought, which lasted from 1967 to 1988. Drought conditions however extended well beyond that particular part of Africa, across a broad swathe of the Middle East and India. Scientists at the time explained that these long term drought conditions were the direct result of global cooling, which squeezed the tropical rain belts closer to the equator.

In Ethiopia 300,000 died in the two year drought, which began in 1971. A further 150,000 were affected in Kenya in one of the worst droughts on record there. Drought also severely impacted Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, while monsoon failure in India in 1971-72  was one of the worst since records began in 1876.

Much of northern China was also badly affected, whilst further afield Australia and Argentina also suffered severe droughts.

The US did not escape lightly either. Texas endured its worst drought since the 1950s, while Florida’s drought was the worst on record, with wildfires destroying 400,000 acres in the Everglades. California, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota and even Hawaii also suffered from major droughts.


North Vietnam was hit by one of the worst floods of the 20thC.  Because of the Vietnam War, little news of the Red River flood emerged at the time, but it left behind 100,000 dead.

In India, 10,800 died from storm surge and flooding during a cyclone that hit Orissa. Earlier in the year, 32 died in floods in Kuala Lumpur following heavy monsoon rains.

In Australia, Queensland was hit by several major floods, and Canberra and Victoria were both hit by significant floods, as was New Plymouth in New Zealand.

Elsewhere, 130 died in the Rio de Janeiro floods that year, 19 died in flash floods in Barcelona after 308mm of rain fell in 24 hours, and heavy rain caused a massive landslide at the village of Saint-Jean-Vianney in Quebec, killing 31.

In the USA, hardly a month passed without major floods somewhere or the other. In February major flooding affected Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. A month later it was the turn of southeastern states, particularly Georgia which experienced record water levels in some areas. May and June brought significant flooding to Utah, Idaho, Nebraska and Wyoming, while Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia suffered in June and July.

The following month Baltimore was struck by one of the most damaging thunderstorms in 50 years, with 14 dead from the resulting floods.

In the same month, widespread flooding followed Tropical Storm Doria up the coast from N Carolina to Maine. In August too, Alaska suffered one of its worst floods on record.

Extended flooding occurred in September and October, affecting Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. And to finish the year off, Oklahoma was again hit with significant flooding, along with Arkansas.

Hurricanes and Tornadoes

The Atlantic hurricane season was described as “fairly active”, with three hurricanes hitting the US. The strongest was Edith, a Cat 5 which killed dozens in Nicaragua, before turning north and striking Louisiana.

Ginger is on record at the time as the longest lasting Atlantic hurricane ever. An unnamed storm in August attained hurricane status further north than any other North Atlantic tropical cyclone.

Unusually, Canada was on the tail ends of two hurricanes, Beth and Doria, which both caused huge amounts of flooding. Both were listed by Natural Resources Canada among the 18 major hurricanes of the 20thC.

In the eastern Pacific, the hurricane season was above average with 18 named storms, 6 of which made landfall. The latter is still the record for a season.

In the western Pacific, the typhoon season was also a busy one, with 24 typhoons, of which 6 were super typhoons. The season had an extremely active start with a record number of storms before August. Typhoon Rose left 130 dead in Hong Kong, plus many more at sea.

Queensland was hit by Cyclone Althea, a Cat 4 cyclone, with extensive damage.

In the US, the tornado season was also above average, with 82 F3+ tornadoes (compared to 18 last year). The worst tornado outbreak occurred in the Mississippi Valley in February, spawning 19 tornadoes, and claiming 123 lives across three states.


Canada’s snowfall record for one season was set in the winter of 1971/72 in British Columbia. During the same winter, the US record fell, with 1122 inches of snow on Mt Baker in Washington.

Montreal’s “snowstorm of the century” left 17 dead with 70 mph winds producing second storey drifts.

Texas and Oklahoma were hit by a giant blizzard, which broke the state record snow depth on the latter. The NWS in Amarillo described lists this blizzard as one of the top 20 weather events in the Panhandle.

Columbia suffered its worst winter in years, compounded by severe floods in spring..

But it was not cold everywhere. The UK’s highest ever January temperature of 65F was set in Gwynedd.

  1. Broadlands permalink
    July 31, 2021 6:53 pm

    Unless I misunderstand, what was written and well documented since 1971 was done ten years ago. But, it is doubtful that an update to fifty years ago would make much difference.

  2. Martin permalink
    July 31, 2021 8:33 pm

    It’s very interesting looking back at previous year’s weather events. I have recently been looking back at 1921, as my mother just celebrated her 100th birthday and I was looking for some interesting facts about that year. I was amazed to find that in 1921 the UK suffered its worst drought since 1785, with 100 days without rain as well as a heat wave in July with temperatures in the 90s deg F (over 32 deg C). Unfortunately the climate emergency hadn’t been invented then, so it was just considered normal weather variation.

  3. Ray Burnett permalink
    July 31, 2021 9:32 pm

    What’s not mentioned in your statistics is that the world’s population in 2021 is more than double that of 1971. This means any bad weather today is likely to affect twice as many people as before. Actually more than twice – the “later arrivals” will have probably settled in less-than-desirable locations which are more vulnerable to bad weather.

    • Dr Mike Edwards permalink
      August 1, 2021 9:13 am

      Probably more than double due to the increasing urbanization of the human race, packing ever more people into quite small areas.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      August 1, 2021 2:17 pm

      They also own more stuff.

  4. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    July 31, 2021 9:54 pm

    And we have a winner.

  5. July 31, 2021 10:11 pm

    ‘the public beginning to be aware of the crippling cost of Net Zero’ is a start.

    If they knew the futility of it in climate terms we’d really be getting somewhere.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      August 1, 2021 2:15 pm

      Sadly Joe Average doesn’t do math.

  6. Shoki Kaneda permalink
    August 1, 2021 12:54 am

    I blew an engine outside Indianapolis in the January 1978 blizzard and was stuck there for eight days. Nothing moved for five and it took me three to find and install a new long block. Worst snowstorm I have ever seen and that includes some real Nor’easters in Maine.

  7. Phoenix44 permalink
    August 1, 2021 8:31 am

    This illustrates the deception that most in the media and politics have fallen for – the claim is not that we never had “extremes” but that they are now more common and more likely. But the fools who now run the media and politicians are not bright enough to understand that distinction and most climate scientists are too dishonest to correct the misperception.

    And FWIW, 3 of the last 4 weeks and this coming week in SW France have been/will be 3-4 degrees below average. The low tonight is forecast to be 5 degrees below average.

    • August 1, 2021 11:32 am

      As an acquaintance of mine said, following a series of cold misty mornings – “C’est comme Octobre, Bizarre !” and it is certainly well below normal.

  8. August 1, 2021 9:27 am

    “With COP26 looming large and the public beginning to be aware of the crippling cost of Net Zero, the media are desperately stoking alarm”

    Brilliant. This says it all.

  9. Mad Mike permalink
    August 1, 2021 12:07 pm

    Does anybody else think that these Alarmists have finally shot themselves in the foot by now referring to Extreme Weather? Calling current weather events “Extreme” leaves it to be compared with weather everybody has experienced within their own lifetimes and of course the average person can see how silly it sounds. I know a few people who have gone along with the mainstream narrative but are now seeing how silly these Extreme events are. Are people waking up?

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      August 1, 2021 2:16 pm

      No. Not the sheeple.

  10. August 1, 2021 12:37 pm

    It is only sensible to consider climate over 4.5 billion years and not simply just one person’s life span.

  11. August 1, 2021 10:26 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    When you read old reports on weather phenomenon, especially in the local press, there is always a fantastical element of human recollection that defines it as “never had it so bad”, “worst ever” or now the modern iteration “unprecedented”. In those days such debate was often resolved when an old timer wrote in, their wry smile practically dripping from the letters pages, that yes it had indeed happened before. However, now we have an industry dedicated to the attribution of sin to the weather:

    Your sin causes earthly smiting, and earthly smiting is a cause of your sin. They know those because it is written into the models and so the models have foretold. It is not weather, nor the dearth of datapoints from short and manipulated histories that create a deviation from the average but an inconceivable singularity and omen of doom caused by your sin. They discounted every other explanation, so this can be the only explanation.

    This can only be wrought by having a society with amnesia that worships the priestly experts of “for me, but not for thee” who practice “The Science”. It can only happen when the priestly class have become so dogmatic that they fervently believe that their every utterance and preconceived notion is in accordance with “The Science”. They are the model become flesh and you must die so that they can live.

    … Or you can pick up an old newspaper, break the programming and realise old truths hold better than a narcissistic reflection of your own ideas.

    What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

  12. terryfwall permalink
    August 2, 2021 4:37 pm

    Let’s say there are 100 countries that have accurate weather and climate records going back 100 years. On average each country might have five distinct climatic regions – a few just one, some with dozens. The average length of a significant or “extreme” weather event may be around a week, from a “hottest day ever” claim to a exceptional monsoon, hurricane season or drought lasting three months. Those data records will record, as a minimum, max & min temperatures, rainfall wet or dry, and winds calm or strong.

    So that gives 156,000 separate data sets, all of which will have set a “once in a hundred years” marker at some time in that century. Question: how frequently will there be such an event that can be portrayed as “proving” the current climate is extreme, it’s our fault and we need to divert huge amounts of our wealth to addressing the problem?

    The answer is a reasonably low number spread over that period: just four.

    That’s four EVERY DAY, and that’s by climatic region, not by individual weather station. Is it reasonable to state that if there are fewer than four reported extremes from round the world each day that the Earth’s climate is, in fact, becoming less volatile and less extreme?

    Well, of course not, but that argument would be at least as valid as those that claim the opposite, on the basis of a few reported extremes such as Canadian heatwaves and German flash floods.

  13. Patricia Beechey permalink
    August 4, 2021 11:53 pm

    I lived through the 71/72 record breaking snow in Ottawa. Got a certificate from the city saying we had survived the winter. I lived on the second floor of a house and the snow came right up to the windows, our street was one lane only that winter. Lots of guys made a lot of money carting the snow away.

    Sent from my iPad Pat Beechey


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