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 32 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.

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July 31, 2021 6:11 pm

Last year and this year will be documented as worse. We’ll see the live updates every 10 minutes and be told how bad to think it is.

Curious George
Reply to  Rhs
July 31, 2021 6:35 pm

A creative documentation, based on scientific principles of creative accounting 🙂

Steve Case
July 31, 2021 6:12 pm

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

That begs the question:

How can so many people be so easily convinced that events which have always 
occurred and extensively documented, are wholly new and unprecedented?

Unfortunately, It boils down to politics and propaganda.

Reply to  Steve Case
July 31, 2021 11:46 pm

In 1971 a generation of baby boomers wouldn’t have had all those world weather events thrust in their faces every time they tapped a touch screen like their descendants are. Welcome to the paranoid generations that are easy prey for manipulation by pseudo-science and a bloated industry with a vested interest in feathering their own nest.

Reply to  observa
August 2, 2021 9:02 am

There was nationwide TV then, and radio and the Missouri/Mississippi valley floods was a big story.

Actually the nation got a better, more coherent picture back then than they do now with hundreds or thousands of bloggers and web sites all making things up and vying for attention.

Gregory Woods
Reply to  Steve Case
August 1, 2021 12:23 am

or just plain stupidity…

Reply to  Steve Case
August 1, 2021 2:15 am

I learnt on GB News the other day (Farage) that Tony Blair had told Ofcom that broadcasters don’t need to broadcast both sides of the Climate debate as the science is settled. So basically any news report on Climate Change by the BBC is propaganda. This revelation explains a lot.

Paul C
Reply to  Galileo9
August 1, 2021 12:14 pm

The bBC used a panel of what they claimed to be 28 experts in the field of climate science. The “experts” came to the conclusion that the science was settled, so biased programming could continue. The bBC fought tooth and nail not to disclose that list, spending licence-payers money to fight court cases. However, a list of the participants was found lurking in some dark corner of the internet. The head of comedy, activists from the likes of green-piece of the action, and friends of the earth (foes of humanity) were typical of the panel members, so a biased panel made a biased decision that the bBc could continue to be biased on attributing weather to climate change.

Eric Harpham
Reply to  Galileo9
August 2, 2021 12:09 pm

This regulation, approved by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, applies to ALL broadcasters, not only the BBC.

It is government approved propaganda and brainwashing.

Reply to  Steve Case
August 1, 2021 5:48 am

Two reasons. First, people have short memories and tend to remember the past better than it was. We forget about the bad in the past and remember only the good.

Second, the past doesn’t fit the narrative and so cannot be talked about. The young, with their energy to carry out the will of the party, are kept ignorant by design.

Reply to  Wade
August 1, 2021 1:28 pm

Forget the bad of the past?

I wish!

Tom Halla
July 31, 2021 6:24 pm

What should be a bigger scandal is the cooking of temperature and weather records. Judging how likely a certain weather condition is depends on good records, and the “correction” of records makes this quite difficult.
As an example of this, there was a major snow storm in the Santa Cruz mountains opposite San Jose, California in the early 1970’s. I think it was 1971, but googling it showed nothing. I know quite well that we had to pack groceries to my uncle’s family in the mountains, as they could not get up their own driveway. This was, of course, before any internet coverage of news, and rather before the internet per se. What the scandal is that no one saw fit to upload any of the hard copy news to the net of this event.

Reply to  Tom Halla
July 31, 2021 7:37 pm

Jan. 3, 1974. The storm dumped as much as 9 inches of snow in Boulder Creek and almost a foot in Bonny Doon above 2000 ft. It was dubbed “The Storm of the Century” at the time. It downed thousands of trees, closed Big Basin Redwoods State Park for three months and caused then Gov. Ronald Reagan to declare a state of emergency in the county.

I know because I was stuck in it. It started snowing about 7am and by noon it was up to my knees. Power was out for over a week. It wasn’t the snow so much, it was the trees. They all exploded because they couldn’t handle the weight of the snow. To get anywhere required sawing your way out.

July 31, 2021 6:42 pm

It doesn’t matter that bad weather has always been the bane of the pursuits of mankind.

What matters is that government now wants to tax you because of bad weather even though there is nothing that they can or will do about it.

Anyone who thinks the government can control the weather has not been paying attention to reality. Dancing, throwing virgins into volcanoes and burning witches at the stake were all tried and all failed. There is no evidence whatsoever that not burning carbon will amount to any weather difference either.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Doonman
July 31, 2021 10:35 pm

Suffer droughts? Build dams. Major forest fires? Clear underbrush. Significant floods? Build dams, dredge waterways and limit development in floodplains. Recurrent hurricanes? Tougher building standards and improved evacuation planning. Government reaction to these recurring problems? Wreck the economy with unreliables.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  Doonman
August 1, 2021 10:26 am

” Dancing, throwing virgins into volcanoes and burning witches at the stake were all tried and all failed. ”
This is the scientific method. Try different remedies and see which ones are effective. Eliminate those which fail to bring change. You will note that we no longer cast virgins into volcanoes (so my ass is safe).
The current methods we are testing is taxing the climate and smother it with bureaucracy. I expect in a few years we will discard these as ineffective too. /sarc

Last edited 1 year ago by Mumbles McGuirck
July 31, 2021 6:52 pm

In 1970-71 I was teaching mathematics at a university when my lottery number for the Vietnam draft came up. I did basic training at Ft. Sam, Texas the summer of 1971 where it was so hot that we recruits would soak ourselves in the showers with our boxers and T-shirts on before lying on top of our cots with huge fans going all around us.

Then in September our bivouac training was canceled because almost a foot of rain threatened our safety from flash floods. (Our first sergeant told us that it was the first time the army at Ft. Sam had ever canceled a bivouac due to weather.)

Tom Abbott
Reply to  noaaprogrammer
August 1, 2021 6:51 am

“I did basic training at Ft. Sam, Texas the summer of 1971 where it was so hot that we recruits would soak ourselves in the showers with our boxers and T-shirts on before lying on top of our cots with huge fans going all around us.”

I did my basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas. It was so dry there, we had to low-crawl on gravel. It was during the June-July time period.

The forward-leaning-position was torture on black asphalt with bare hands. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much of that.

July 31, 2021 7:28 pm

While humans have memories, the record keeping is not quantitative. Past events tend to become less important as time pass by until it fades from memory. Long past events may be recall if there is a reminder but still the importance is very low compared to recent events. The weather of 1971 may be worst weather compared to today weather, but today’s weather will always look worse than 1971. 1971 is a vague memory, it is not even an event to most people. The number of deaths at the Battle of Waterloo or the World War I carnage becomes simple historical data. I used the word “worse” rather than “worst”, because the fear of what is to come will always make future weather “worst” especially if it is supported by computer models, media or gossips. Fear of the unknown, pain from today, and vague memory of the past is how we humans react. While optimistic fantasy of the future, joy of the present and lively memory of the past may sometimes crop up in human mind, it is fear, fear, fear that really drives herd mentality that makes and unmake civilization. It makes civilization as humans cooperate to address the future and it unmakes civilization as human panic and makes irrational and unrealistic decisions.

Reply to  eo
July 31, 2021 11:09 pm

Hmmm, glass half full or half empty. Unfortunately it seems pessimism (half empty) is a trait of those on the left. I’m sure they only remember the bad times. Hence the alarmism.
One of the reasons I enjoy this site is the abounding optimism and the down take of pessimistic alarmism.
Keep up the good work all and sundry.

Reply to  aussiecol
August 1, 2021 3:42 am

“glass half full or half empty.”

A bean counter would say “the glass is twice the size it needs to be, so cut’s must be made.!”
An engineer would say “the glass is completely full … but has a 100% extra capacity to allow for any future catastrophic over-filling.”

Reply to  eo
August 2, 2021 9:08 am

it is fear, fear, fear that really drives herd mentality that makes and unmake civilization

And the future is feared because it is unknown. Those looking for power can use that fear and enhance it with threatening predictions. The past, however, is known and never feared.

July 31, 2021 7:30 pm

Thanks for a great and very extensive survey of the facts.

July 31, 2021 8:10 pm

I was in Montreal and lived through that blizzard. We kids thought it was great. We could climb straight onto the roof from the ten foot snowdrifts and then jump off.

July 31, 2021 8:50 pm

The weather in the 70’s was really wild in California. I was a teenager in July 1976 when we went on a 2-week backpack in Yosemite. We were in the far northern part of the park at about 10,000 ft (Burro Pass to be exact) when a 3-day snowstorm hit – totally freaking unprecedented, at worst you get thunderstorms with hail that time of the year in the Sierra. We had tarps for a roof and used our backpacks to form the walls of our shelter but the snow was a foot deep and drifts formed inside. Only by keeping the jerry tube of peanut butter with me in my sleeping bag was it thawed enough to eat. When we made it back to civilization I had no problem believing the hype about the Coming Ice Age.

Pat from kerbob
July 31, 2021 9:45 pm

February 1978 in southern Saskatchewan
6 day blizzard.
Massive drifts, people were able to drive skidoo’s over the school

We would run on top of the Gym, 30’ at the peak and jump off into the 15’ drifts below then basically swim out.

Then do it again.

Was fun then but absolutely no desire to see that kind of snow and cold again.

Awful stuff

Reply to  Pat from kerbob
August 1, 2021 8:04 am

It was cold and very snowy in some of those years in Sask and the prairies including the northern plains states. I remember 1971/72 like the back of my hand as per all the intense cold winters, howling blizzards and wicked hot summers.

I had a used Vega in the winter of 71/72 trying to drive to high school in Saskatoon and it was -35 to -40 every morning for weeks on end it seemed. That aluminum block just didn’t want to start even being plugged in. And when it did start, the heater didn’t work much and the windshield would barely clear the windshield, mostly from the condensed moisture in the breath of a few us breathing, so would have to open the windows to drive. We were tough guys, so we would take off our winter coats and roll up our sleeves just to make a point that this wasn’t all that bad. Now the ‘snowflakes’ get time off school if it is below a certain temp, or too much snow. We never got any of that, unless the school was froze up.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Earthling2
August 1, 2021 9:06 pm

I had a paper route at the time, I was 13, got 4 days of papers all at once to deliver so I loaded the toboggan and got it done.

It was awful back then

And that is what griff pines for.

Hard to come up with words to adequately convey my contempt for him and the others

July 31, 2021 9:48 pm

Sorry Paul, the IPCC has revised and corrected the numbers for 1971. There were only 7 floods, 4 storms and 3 records set. But all of those WERE due to climate change.

Last edited 1 year ago by JBP
Gregory Woods
August 1, 2021 12:22 am

Columbia or Colombia?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Gregory Woods
August 1, 2021 4:56 am

I think he meant BC and omitted the British part.

Andrew Wilkins
August 1, 2021 2:44 am

Griff or Loydo, would you like to comment?

Reply to  Andrew Wilkins
August 1, 2021 3:44 am

For gods sake don’t start them off !

Andrew Wilkins
Reply to  saveenergy
August 1, 2021 4:52 am

I can’t help myself. It’s like an online bloodsport.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Andrew Wilkins
August 1, 2021 8:27 am

Isn’t more like a cat and a laser pointer? It’s hard not to toy with them, especially if there’s a mirror in the room!

Pamela Matlack-Klein
August 1, 2021 3:53 am

In 1971 I was living in Washington, D.C. and can’t recall any weather bad enough to take special note of. It wasn’t until I moved to Ft. Lauderdale and it snowed in Tampa that talk of a coming ice age started to look possible. During the late 80s and early 90s Florida experienced more that its fair share of cold; driving through the citrus groves coated in ice to protect the fruit was a real treat, everything sparkling in the sun despite the frigid air.

August 1, 2021 4:30 am

I remember ’71, we had snow a couple of times winter of ’70-’71, and a nasty ice storm. That was Pearl River County Mississippi. Crops were good that summer, bad the next year, so on and so forth. Its just how live on Earth be like.

Reply to  2hotel9
August 1, 2021 11:44 am

I remember the winter of 1970/71 very well. I was living at Lake Tahoe City on the north end of the lake. That winter had a good start with early snows covering ski slopes. Then in mid December 1970 we had 12 feet in 3 days. Approximately 2 weeks later there was 6 feet in one day. In the meantime lighter snow falls kept coming down. The mountains of snow piled everywhere were extraordinary to see.

No wonder that there were floods in the Midwest that year. The storms hardly ever stopped coming in all winter long.

August 1, 2021 4:46 am

Thank you Paul! A good account of past disasters before climate change.

Tom Abbott
August 1, 2021 6:26 am

From the article: “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.”

I drove through that blizzard in 1971. I was heading from Oklahoma to California on Interstate Highway 40, which goes through Amarillo, with good weather in front of us until we hit the Oklahoma panhandle, and then all heck broke loose.

It was a very bad, dangerous driving experience. There was very low visibilty. At one point I passed a semi-trailer truck on this four-lane highway, and as I pulled back into the right-hand lane, there was ice underneath the snow and the car started sliding and we spun around until I was looking through the front windshield of my car at the semi coming up behind me. Not quite 180 degrees of spin.

I managed to get the car turned back around the right way (it was a Volvo) and slowed down and the semi I had just passed went blowing by me on the left.

I was going about 65mph when that all happened. I slowed down to about 35mph until we got out of the ice.

A bad blizzard!

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom Abbott
Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 2, 2021 5:11 am

I got my blizzards mixed up.

The blizzard I described above took place a few years later than 1971

I was driving from Oklahoma to Trinidad, Colorado during the first blizzard.

So the last two times I headed west in a car, I ran into a blizzard. Maybe that’s a sign I should not drive long distances during the winter. Of course, back then, I wasn’t paying all that much attention to the weather forecasts. That’s not the case now.

August 1, 2021 7:46 am

This is literally the oldest story in the book, starting with the ancient biblical Flood of Noah from the earlier myth of Gilgamesh. Which had to be a collective memory of the end of the continental ice sheets in North America and Europe (and SH) including the melting of extensive mountain glaciation that led to increase sea levels of 400 feet over 5000+ years. Now that was real climate change. Ancient peoples and cultures kept their history orally, as writing was yet to be invented. Things got embellished, all happened in 40 days, and the water all came from the ‘fountains of the deep’.

We were to be punished for our sins, and failure to comply would bring a flood. Now you can substitute any bad weather to invoke the same myth, (now CO2 or ‘carbon) that somehow it has to be humans who bring on this own bad weather/climate on ourselves. It appears there is nothing new under the Sun. The same high priests of climate academia/politico/media are no different than the high priests of old. Give me your money, and we will control you, or you will be punished with bad weather of every kind.

Abolition Man
August 1, 2021 8:24 am

Great refresher history course! My best memory of 1971 is flying home from the state high school track meet with a medal and a flat of fresh strawberries on my lap! There were a couple of good looking stewardesses that I kept surreptitiously feeding berries, but the track coach kept me from getting into any more serious trouble no matter how hard I tried! The weather seemed almost idyllic that year, but it could have been due to the cloud of smoke that was often wrapped around my head!
How could Ginger be the longest lasting Atlantic hurricane? Everyone knows that Gilligan’s island was somewhere in the Pacific! And while she was definitely stormy, I don’t think we ever saw her in full hurricane mode!

Dave Irons
Reply to  Abolition Man
August 1, 2021 8:47 am

All I remember is that it was a good snow year in Maine and I was always able to drive to the mountains to ski without difficulty. But those of us who learned to drive in Maine winters know you don’t drive 65 in a snowstorm.

August 1, 2021 9:32 am

My friends and family scoff and dismiss me when I say that the weather this year is nothing unprecedented. I tell them that the combination of continuous media coverage and alarmism have made the weather seem like the worst ever, especially since we are expected to just take them at their word. My fallback is always that in over 4 billion years, you really believe the earth has never seen worse weather? In human history even? I’m not popular when it comes to discussing climate, needless to say, and I’m proud of that haha.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Michael
August 1, 2021 4:34 pm

G’Day Michael,

“In human history even?”

Reported weather events from 2 AD to 1900 AD. Expose “family and friends” to some history


It’s a 1,400 page .pdf – including the “reference” pages. It’s an eye-opener.

Reply to  Tombstone Gabby
August 1, 2021 7:18 pm

Thanks for that! I look forward to the read.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Michael
August 1, 2021 8:21 pm

G’Day Michael,

When you get to reports of cannibalism in Europe you know conditions were rough. Tornados in England? They happened. It’s a ‘read and a half’.

Mumbles McGuirck
August 1, 2021 10:44 am

My parents’ generation lived through the heatwaves and droughts of the 1930s. My mother told me of how hot the summers were even in Wisconsin. But NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies cooled the past so all we had left
of that time were people’s memories. Winston Smith would be proud.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mumbles McGuirck
August 1, 2021 10:58 am

In 1972 I had to walk to school over hills in a park. At one spot there was a dip of about 20 feet and it was 50yards across. The snow had drifted and all I could see of the dip was a flat field of very powdery snow. It was the only time I walked back home and told my mom I couldn’t make it to school. This was in Vernon B.C. in Canada.

August 1, 2021 12:02 pm

Regarding “Unusually, Canada was on the tail ends of two hurricanes, Beth and Doria”: Doria of 1971 was never a hurricane. Its peak strength was as a 65 MPH tropical storm. Also, it changed into an extratropical cyclone while it was over Maine.

Edward Katz
August 1, 2021 2:24 pm

Naturally the alarmists are guaranteed to downplay such years and any weather events from the past because they undermine their credibility. I’ve noticed these people are remarkably reticent about the drought conditions that prevailed across much of North America during the 1930s, To them, John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath is just science-fiction.

August 1, 2021 6:01 pm

China’s weather manipulation could be responsible for some of it, at least at the local level. But who knows if it can also have repercussions elsewhere?

Pat from kerbob
August 1, 2021 6:43 pm

What the below discussion shows is the climate back before human CO2 messed it all up
Those glorious years of 20’ snow drifts and endless weeks of -40c

How incredibly stupid do you have to be to wish to somehow return to that?
Even if it was possible?

Loydo ?

How stupid do you have to be

I want to know?

If we are responsible for not having winters like that anymore I fail to see the problem

Last edited 1 year ago by Pat from Kerbob
August 1, 2021 8:19 pm

The bad weather this year is entirely due to Climate Change….

The massive GreenMachine is pumping propaganda dollars into all the press agencies to create the usual emotional climate narrative .

COP26 looms. The reported weather is entirely due to its proximity

John Bell
August 2, 2021 6:18 am

What caused it? Lots of sun spots or none? La Nina or El Nino?

August 2, 2021 8:58 am

In February major flooding affected Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin

I made a cross country flight at that time. The entire Mississippi valley looked like a lake, extending all the way to the horizon.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Whelan
Gerald Hanner
August 2, 2021 12:54 pm

The first half of 1971 I lived in Puerto Rico; the second half of 1971 I was in Thailand. The only unusual thing I can still remember is that there were a few days in January 1972 when a strong Siberian weather front put a chill on us. The Thais seem to be wearing every article clothing they had. We Yanks made do with a light jacket.

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