Coldest, wettest & stormiest – Good old days before global warming – Down for that?


By Paul Homewood

In the 1970s, the Earth experienced three decades of temperature drops, Hubert Lamb described as “the longest continuing downtrend since the temperature record started”.

Many will know that the coldest winter on record in the US was 1978/79, 1 degree Fahrenheit colder than any other year.

It is also known that the 1970s suffered the most from tornadoes.

What may be less well known, however, is that the United States also had its wettest year on record in the decade, in 1973.

Few parts of the country escaped the rain, and the eastern and central regions suffered heavy damage:

No wonder severe flooding has resulted. Most notable was the Mississippi flood between March and May, which was assessed as second worst since 1927.

Morgan City, LA – May 1973

But Tennessee Valley also suffered one of the most expensive floods in modern history.


Flooding along Huntsville Spring Branch and Memorial Parkway on March 16, 1973.

Then, in October, a severe thunderstorm produced the largest urban rainfall on record in Oklahoma, with 15 to 20″ accumulations in the 100 square mile area. Nine people died in floods caused in Enid, OK

Enid, Oklahoma

And there was a great flood South Platte River in Denver, described in 2003 as “the recent major flooding in Denver“.

But there were many more floods that year, like USGS report:

Summary of significant floods, 1970 to 1989, by year


Moderate to severe flooding occurred along California’s central coast in January 1973 . Many small sewers are scattered along about 300 miles of coastline with Largest discharge on record. Large flows are restricted to drains less than 60 mi² in area and mainly occur in drainage areas less than 10 mi² in area.

Much of the eastern half of the United States gets above-average rainfall in March. Severe flooding occurred between 7-9 and March 15-16, with Flow remains high between two floods in several streams in central Wisconsin. Rainfall on March 17-19 caused Severe flooding from west Virginia to southwestern Mississippi. Maximum discharge at over 100 internal flow analysis stations Tennessee and northern parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia greater than the previous maximum of the record. Flow at a test station on the Tennessee River in Alabama is the largest since at least 1867. These flooding storms have spread over much of the area east of the Mississippi River. Strong winds combined with hurricanes caused severe flooding along the Great Lakes shores with damage in Michigan, Ohio and New York.

In addition to the floods discussed above, Northeast has floods from April 24 to May 3, June 30 to July 5, and August 2. Floods from April through May led to Federal disaster declarations for four counties in the extreme northeast of Maine. During the flooding from May to June, 40 counties spanning New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania were declared eligible for Federal disaster aid. Flooding was particularly severe in the Delaware River basin and Lake Ontario. The August 2 flood was described at the time as the deadliest flood in central New Jersey’s history, with six deaths recorded.

Spring Flooding Along the Mississippi River resulted in the declaration of disaster for every county bordering the Mississippi River from the line of Wisconsin-Illinois to the mouth of the river in Louisiana. Flooding that began on the Mississippi River and its tributaries in early March lasted through June and displaced 50,000 people and caused more than $400 million in damage. New records for consecutive days on flood stages were established, and periods and maximum discharges exceed the estimated 100-year repeat interval (Chin et al., 1975).

A significant regional flood in the Western states in 1973 was caused by the melting of excessive snow and ice in the Rocky Mountains. The high-water period begins in April in Arizona and lasts until June in Wyoming. Extreme flooding occurs along the South Platte River in Colorado and Nebraska, both due to rain with snow and because of warm weather in general with melting snow. Snowfall is generally produced significant flooding in the watershed of the Rio Grande in central Colorado and New Mexico and in the Green River and Colorado watersheds of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

Several floods occurred in April, May, June, September, and November in Southern states from the Carolinas to Mississippi. Major areas and flood dates are March 30 to April 8 near the Georgia-Florida State border, May 27-29 in the southern Appalachian region, and June 5-6 near Atlanta, Georgia. Flooding occurred near the border between North and South Carolina between September 13 and 14, and in Kentucky and Tennessee between November 25 and 28.

Multiple floods occurred in an arc through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri during 1973. Some streams are flooded several times a year. Widespread flooding has occurred in the lower reaches of the Missouri, White, Arkansas, Yazoo, and Red River basins.. Flooding occurred in watersheds across Texas at the time of the March through April flooding along the Mississippi River. Discharges in the tributaries of the Mississippi River are not historically maximum, but their combined flows have caused flooding on the main body of the Mississippi River. Massive flooding also occurred in Texas in June and July. The floods in July affected the San Antonio, Guadalupe, Frio and a small part of the Rio Grande watershed.

Some streams reach their highest levels since the mid-1800s. Other time periods of Significant flooding occurred in the Texas-Missouri arc from late September to mid-October and into late November. Floods occur mainly on September 26-29, October 11-13 and November 24-26, but small areas flood on other days, especially September 5-7 and September 12-14. At many flow analysis stations, discharges during late September and mid-October floods ranked highest or second in record years.; in others, November release is bigger.

Bring that global cooling!!

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