Extreme Weather In 1971

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.



July 31, 2021 at 12:09PM

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