Extreme Climate and Weather Related Events Prior to
Significant Anthropogenic Fossil Fuel Consumption
(A Partial Listing)
For years now we have been told that due to mankind’s addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and presumed resultant warming of the atmosphere, the Earth would be subject to increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. This was certainly demonstrated in An Inconvenient Truth as Al Gore stands in front of a NASA image of Hurricane Katrina, with the obvious implication that the storm was our fault. Now, while the storm itself was an entirely natural occurrence, the degree of devastation wrought upon the city of New Orleans was indeed the result of human ineptitude, or was at the least substantially aggravated by human action, as exemplified in Government response on all levels, before, during and after the actual onset of the storm itself. But that is a story for another place. Here I intend only to address the question of intensity and frequency of weather events before they could be blamed upon any meaningful anthropogenic increase of CO2 to the atmosphere. So, to that end I have compiled a broad sample of events in the several centuries leading up to a point prior to any belief that the planet was warming due to the burning of fossil fuels, placed somewhat arbitrarily at 1965. I could have come closer to the present, up to the 1980s for example, but I wanted to stay well short of the advent of global warming dogma in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Another thing is, I could have added many more events than the ones listed here but I think there are enough that any unprejudiced reader will get the point. Suffice it to say that extreme weather and climate change events have occurred on all timescales throughout the history of the Earth. Here I am listing only those events that are a part of the human-scale experience of recent history. Please read through the list carefully to gain a realistic context for understanding the claim that some contemporary flood, storm, hurricane or drought is anthropogenically caused and unprecedented. Whatever may or may not be true regarding the global warming creed, it is certainly not true that the last several decades have seen an increase in either the severity or frequency of weather or climate-related events. In fact, a considerable amount of evidence points in the opposite direction.
I provide most of my sources at the end of the list.
Extreme cyclonic storm, Dartmoor England – Oct. 21, 1638: Violent tornado-like storm throwing fireballs demolishes a church while in service, killing about 50 parishioners, spawns legends attributing the freak storm to the devil.
Extreme hurricane strikes Guadeloupe – Aug. 4, 1666. Six-foot-thick rock walls are smashed to rubble by gigantic sea wave, dozens of ships demolished and sunk, thousands drown.
Savage Atlantic hurricane – Nov. 1703: Pounds coastal England for fourteen days. Giant waves flood the Thames River, some 300 ships and 30,000 sailors are lost in the storm. Many ships are thrown up onto the land by the huge waves, thousands of casualties and drowned cattle.
Severe hurricane sinks Spanish flotilla off coast of Florida – July 31, 1715: Preceded by a strange mist that envelops the fleet, 100 mph winds destroy a Spanish fleet of 11 treasure-laden ships within five minutes, more than 1,000 men are killed.
Powerful cyclone, Bay of Bengal India – Oct. 7, 1737: Huge cyclone drives a 40-foot-high storm wave across densely populated land near mouth of Hooghly River, engulfing seaport, destroying 20,000 ships and drowning 300,000 people.
Devastating drought-induced famine in Hindustan, India – 1769-1770: No rain for a year-and-a-half wipes out entire province. 3,000,000 die of starvation and disease. When crops finally return no one remains to harvest them and they rot in the fields.
Powerful hurricane strikes North Carolina – Sept. 1-3, 1772: Eastern seaboard devastated under a massive hurricane, 15 large frigates ripped from their moorings and thrown inland for several miles.
Great hurricane, Caribbean – Oct. 10, 1780: Gigantic hurricane unleashes its fury across the West Indies. Every tree and building on the island of Barbados is destroyed, 6,000 are killed. On Martinique, 40 ships in a French fleet are demolished and 4,000 soldiers drown; 20 villages are completely destroyed along with 9,000 people. The storm is so violent it actually causes earthquakes.
Extreme hurricane blasts Savannah, GA – Sept. 12, 1804: 100+ mile-per-hour winds flatten forests and a military fort, tossing 4,800 pound cannons hundreds of feet into the air. Sweeping north it devastates Charleston, SC, wrecking dozens of ships and sinking five. It continues north to New England, crushing forests and houses along the way.
Hurricane, West Indies, Barbados, Louisiana – Aug. 10-11, 1831: Barbados is laid waste by intense, destructive storm that destroys virtually all trees and vegetation on the island. 1,500 killed, damage at $7.5 million.
Cyclone, Coringa, India – 1839: 40 foot waves crush 20,000 vessels and 300,000 are killed.
Savage Cyclone wipes out Calcutta, India – Oct. 5, 1864: Intense winds drive a 40-foot sea wave into Calcutta harbor, destroying more than 200 ships, submerging the city and instantly drowning more than 50,000 inhabitants. Destruction of the water system brings on disease which kills another 30,000 within a few weeks.
Intense hurricane, Nova Scotia, Canada – Aug. 24-25, 1873: Utterly destroys the harbors of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Newfoundland. Over 1000 ships sink, or are torn apart. 600 lives are lost.
Cyclone, Backergunge, India – Oct. 31, 1876: Massive cyclone smashes into the Bay of Bengal region of India, instantly drowning 100,000 people; 100,000 additional deaths due to disease spread by the storm.
Freak gale of Feb. 21-22, 1879: Storm pushes massive waves against Gloucester, Massachusetts. 15 ships in the harbor are overturned by the intense wind, drowning 157 men.
Drought and massive famine, China – 1877-1878: Failure of monsoons for three years straight triggers devastating famine in four provinces of northern China. Between 10 and 13 million perish. Widespread cannibalism, suicides, mass death – with millions of rotting corpses. Nearby provinces experience crop destroying floods.
Devastating tornado, Iowa – June 17, 1882: Wipes away the towns of Grinnel, Mount Pleasant, Malcolm and Brooklyn, Iowa. Tornado cuts a swath over 90 miles long, moving at 56 miles per hour.
Massive Yellow River flood, China – Spring 1887: Heavy rains cause the Yellow River to burst its banks, 600 towns and villages washed away, 1500 villages inundated by 40 to 50 feet of water. Estimated deaths: 1.5 to 7 million.
Severe Hurricane, Louisiana – Oct. 1, 1893: Produces storm surge wave 12 feet high, many ships lost, millions in property damage, and 2,000 people killed.
Drought induced famine, India – 1898: Intense drought affects some 300,000 square miles of southern and western India and the Punjab, causes widespread crop failures two years in a row. More than a million people starve to death, over 60 million people are severely affected.
Hurricane hits Florida, Oct. 2-3, 1898: Powerful hurricane slams into Florida. Giant oaks are snapped off like twigs, houses are blown down, vessels swept inland by massive rush of water.
Horrific drought in India – 1899-1900: Millions die of starvation, millions more die of disease and prolonged famine.
Violent typhoon, Hong Kong, China – Sept. 18, 1906: 10,000 are killed, Hong Kong is totally wrecked. One and two thousand ton ships are picked up by the winds and tossed about, other ships are demolished and sink.
Typhoon gale, Indian Ocean, sinks 9,339 ton liner Waratah – July 28, 1909: 465 foot ship vanishes without a trace in a great storm. All 211 passengers and crew are lost.
Giant Hurricane smashes into Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama – Sept. 10-20, 1909: 350 killed, Mississippi River rises three feet when dikes give way, New Orleans inundated, several smaller towns utterly flattened.
Enormous Floods, Yangtze River, China – Sept. 1911: 700 square miles of four provinces and the city of Shanghai are inundated when the river bursts its embankments, immediately drowning 100,000 people, starvation soon kills another 100,000, more than half a million refugees.
Intense hurricane, Jamaica – Nov. 18, 1912: Multiple hurricanes pummel Jamaica in 1912. The fiercest has 120 mile per hour winds accompanied by massive tidal waves.
Mass Flooding, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois – March 25, 1913: Intense, prolonged rains cause swollen rivers in Ohio to burst their banks, breaching dikes and levees. Dayton, Ohio is under 12 feet of water, 125,000 residents take refuge on rooftops and up in trees. It is estimated that 18 billion tons of rainwater fall on Ohio over three days. 70,000 people instantly rendered homeless. 500 people die in floods which inundate over 1,000 miles of the Ohio River basin. 175,000 people are ultimately left homeless, with $147 million in damage.
Devastating floods, Otay Valley California – Jan. 1916: Massive, freakish rainfalls for several weeks, some measuring up to 395 cubic feet per second per square mile overwhelm the Otay and tributaries, breaking the Otay dam and releasing a flood that destroys millions of dollars’ worth of homes and crops.
Massive storm spawns multiple tornadoes, Midwest USA – May 26-27, 1917: Deadly tornadoes tear across Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. 350 killed, whole towns leveled.
Hurricane, Corpus Christi, Texas – Sept. 14, 1919: Massive storm swallows 10 ships, the Spanish liner Valbanera being the largest, with 400 passengers and 88 crew members, 16 foot waves engulf Corpus Christi.
Dozens of savage tornados strike Illinois, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Dakota and Nebraska – March 28, 1920: Chicago suffers massive destruction, over 220 deaths are recorded throughout the region.
Tornado swarm devastates southern U.S. – April 15-16, 1921: 30 tornadoes over two days cause widespread damage.
Massive snowstorm, Eastern U.S.A. – Jan. 27 – 29, 1922: Rages from South Carolina to Massachusetts, buildings collapse from the weight of snow, theater in Wash. D.C. collapses killing 98 people.
Giant Tornado – Missouri, March 18, 1925: Mile wide tornado begins its rampage in Annapolis, Missouri, cuts a swath for 219 miles to Petersburg, Indiana, 689 people killed, more than one- half billion dollars in damages.
Indian River Florida Hurricane, July 26, 1926: High winds and seas sweeping houses, docks, boats onto land; uproots massive trees
Hurricane, Florida – Sept. 15-22, 1926: Florida again devastated from Miami to Palm Beach, 450 killed, thousands injured, 140 mph winds, nearly 20,000 homes demolished or unroofed, over 100 million in damages.
Hurricane, Cuba – Oct. 20, 1926: 130 mph winds kill 650 people, 25 foot waves, 10,000 homeless and $100 million in damages
Enormous cluster of tornadoes in Midwest U.S.A. – May 9, 1927: 36 tornadoes in one day ravage the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri. Town of Poplar Bluff, Missouri is wiped off the map by a tornado traveling over 50 mph.
Huge killer hurricane – Sept. 10 – 16, 1928: Extraordinarily powerful hurricane with diameter of 230 miles and eyewall winds of 500 mph devastates the Lesser Antilles, the Bahamas, Florida and Atlantic coast of the USA up to Cape Hatteras. Every building in Guadeloupe is flattened, 284,000 are rendered homeless in Puerto Rico. 21 miles of dikes around Lake Okeechobee, Florida are destroyed, flooding large areas and killing thousands.
Key Largo Hurricane of 1929: 150 mph winds, causes enormous damage in Nassau, Bahamas
Powerful hurricane batters Belize – Sept. 10, 1931: 132 mph winds pulverize dozens of ships, flooding Belize and drowning 1,500 people in a matter of minutes.
Devastating tornadoes, Alabama – March 21-22, 1932: At least one dozen violent tornadoes devastate 5 states in addition to Alabama, including Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia. Hundreds of homes demolished, 268 killed.
Two intense hurricanes strike east coast of Florida, July and September, 1933. Extensive damage.
Massive hurricane pounds El Salvador and Western Honduras – June 8, 1934: Many ships sink, massive downpour of rain, rivers overrun their banks by 45 feet, thousands drown.
Extreme drought in Nevada – summer, 1934: Worst drought in state history devastates livestock industry, Lake Tahoe at its all-time lowest, Lake Washoe completely dries up.
Typhoon hits Osaka, Japan – Sept. 21, 1934: 125 mile per hour winds devastate Osaka, more than 80 schools are demolished killing 420 children and injuring 1000. 200 patients at a Leper hospital are swept away in the wind, 3,082 factories are destroyed, and over 4,000 residents die in the storm.
Extreme hurricane devastates Florida Keys – Sept. 2, 1935: Many villages wiped out by 250 mph winds and 20 to 30 foot waves. Hundreds killed. Barometer plunges to 26.35, the lowest ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Witnesses say the air was thick with flying debris and dead bodies. Hundreds of WWI veterans in a road-building camp are literally blown away by the wind.
Hurricanes, West Indies – 1935: 4 massive hurricanes devastate the West Indies. One of these hurricanes, on October 22, kills more than 2,000 people in Haiti alone.
Major drought followed by famine, West China – 1936: Five million people die
North American cold wave – Jan.-Feb. 1936: Intense, record breaking cold paralyzes Midwest, affects all of North America.
Worst heat wave on record in North America – Late June – early Sept, 1936: Record breaking cold wave is followed by extreme heat wave. North Dakota reaches 121°, Ontario and Manitoba set still-standing records of 110°. Heat records are set in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, W. Virginia, and New Jersey. 5000 heat related deaths.
“The Great New England Hurricane” – Sept. 17-21, 1938: Gigantic storm with 186 mph winds causes enormous damage to Long Island, New York and southern New England. Almost 600 killed or missing, nearly 14,000 buildings destroyed, more than 2,500 boats sunk. Almost one- half billion dollars in damages. 60,000 left homeless. This was the ninth major hurricane to have struck New England since record keeping began.
Tornados, Charleston, South Carolina – Sept. 29, 1938: From 6:45 A.M. to 8:30 A.M, five tornados at once descend on Charleston and surrounding area, causing widespread damage and causing extensive casualties and injuries.
Great Floods and famine, China – Sept.- Nov. 1939: A series of giant floods inundate northern provinces destroying grain and rice crops. 25 million rendered destitute, large swaths of land under 10 feet of water. Subsequent famine kills 200,000 over the next 3 months.
Giant Cyclone over Michigan and northern plains – Nov. 11-12, 1940: Furious cyclonic storm sinks 69 ships in Lake Michigan, kills 73 in the state of Michigan.
Cyclone hits Bengal, India – Oct. 16, 1942: Powerful cyclone with 150 mph winds devastates the province of Bengal. 40,000 are killed when the storm hits Calcutta. Many villages completely flattened.
Violent typhoon, Philippines – Dec. 17-18, 1944: 150 mph winds ravage the Philippines, catching the American Third Fleet with 100 foot waves, sending three destroyers to the bottom, drowning 790 sailors and damaging all 28 surviving ships.
Eleven powerful hurricanes strike Florida between 1944 and 1950.
Massive flood on Columbia River – May-June, 1948: Aggravated by three days of intense rainfall , below normal temperatures delay snow-melt in nearby mountain ranges, resulting in a flood in excess of one million cfs in Columbia Valley. Flood erases the city of Vanport Oregon, causing 19,000 to flee with only the clothes on their backs.
Hurricanes – 1951: 12 large hurricanes in the season, the worst being Charlie on Aug. 17. 125 mph winds destroy every wooden structure on the island of Jamaica and break apart dozens of ships, damage is so widespread that recovery takes five years.
Hurricane winds, dike failure, destructive floods, Netherlands – Feb. 1, 1953: 100 mph winds breach 50 dikes, flooding a half-million acres, drowning 1,835 people and a half-million head of livestock and poultry. The same storm kills hundreds of people in England and Belgium.
Hurricane Carol, East Coast USA – Aug. 26-31, 1954: 135 mile per hour winds smash into Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. 60 dead, thousands of homes smashed, cars tossed into the sea, giant sea waves, $460 million in damages.
Typhoons sweep over Japan – 1954: 15 powerful, deadly typhoons sweep over Japan in one year. A typhoon on Sept. 26 has winds so powerful, they capsize a 4,300-ton ferry boat, dumping more than 1000 passengers into the sea and drowning them all.
Hurricanes Connie and Diane, east coast USA – Aug. 4-18, 1955: Back to back storms pound east coast of U.S. Particularly hard hit are the Carolinas, Delaware, New York, Virginia, Maryland. 125 mph winds, ten foot swells, torrential rains, 310 dead.
Hurricane Janet, Gulf of Mexico – Sept. 22-28, 1955: Monster-sized hurricane with 114 mph winds devastates vast areas of coastal Mexico and Honduras over a six day period. Over 500 killed and 60,000 left homeless. Every one of 10,000 coconut trees are snapped off by the wind on Swan Island. Hundreds of people die from bites of poisonous snakes washed into villages by overflowing rivers.
Massive blizzards, extreme cold in Europe – Feb. 1956: 907 persons lose their lives to the extreme weather.
Typhoon Wanda, Yangtze area of China – Aug. 2, 1956: Following the worst heat wave in a century, massive typhoon devastates multiple provinces, killing 1,960, destroying 38,000 homes.
Powerful hurricane, Grenada – Sept. 22, 1956: Winds up to 127 mph destroy every building on the island of Grenada, leaving some 250 dead and 40,000 rendered homeless.
Hurricane Audrey – June 27-30, 1957: Early season hurricane with 105 mph winds catches people in the bayous and lowlands of Texas and Louisiana off guard. The town of Cameron, Louisiana is utterly demolished when water from the Gulf of Mexico surge 25 miles inland. Storm steamrolls north to Ohio before dissipating, destroying 40,000 homes and killing 524.
Typhoon Ida, Japan – Sept. 27-28, 1958: Intense typhoon with 100 mph winds demolishes 244 bridges and washes away 1,000 homes, spawning over 1,800 landslides. 1800 people killed or missing, 120,000 acres of rice paddies drowned, 10,000 rendered homeless.
Hurricane Donna – Sept. 4-12, 1960: Furious storm with 150 mph winds, gusting up to 180 mph, devastates Puerto Rico, Florida Keys, moves up East Coast to Gulf of St. Lawrence. 143 killed, thousands of buildings demolished.
Two great cyclones obliterate East Pakistan – Oct. 1960: An estimated 14,000 people lose their lives to the storms. Winds reach 120 mph.
Hurricane Hattie – Oct. 31, 1961: 200 mph winds engulf Belize, 10 foot tidal waves. At least 400 people killed and thousands injured.
Hurricane winds in the North Sea Feb. 17, 1962: Causes massive, record flooding along Germany’s coast. Over 500 people die and 500,000 left homeless.
Gigantic cyclone devastates East Pakistan on May 28-29, 1963: Winds of 150 mph pummel the countryside for 15 hours. Estimated one million homes destroyed, 300,000 left homeless, 22,000 dead, whole islands swept bare, tidal waves reached inland up to three miles, four ocean liners swept a half-mile inland and dumped.
Destructive tornadoes, Midwest USA – April 11, 1965: Some 50 intense storms across the Midwest spawn at least 35 or more tornadoes that devastate large areas in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio within about 12 hours. Widespread associated flooding in seven states including Minnesota and Montana. 271 persons killed and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
Hurricane Inez, Caribbean – Sept. 24-30, 1966: The Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba are devastated by 160 mph winds. Thousands are killed by being washed into mountain gorges in Haiti, creating vast piles of corpses. Hundreds more are killed throughout Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Intense storm, destructive flood, Florence Italy – Nov. 4-6, 1966: 90 mph winds combined with torrential rains engulf the Arno and Po rivers causing massive floods to overwhelm Florence and Venice, destroying millions of dollars’ worth of art and priceless historic documents, 13,000 shops, and killing 113 people.
Record Floods in Gujarat India – Aug. 7-14, 1968: More than 1,000 people drown, vast areas of land submerged under 10 feet of water for more than a week. 80,000 head of cattle drown, then carcasses rot in the streets.
Intense rains, landslides in Southern California – Jan. 18-26, 1969: Powerful storm dumps torrential rains on Southern California, causing massive landslides which kill 95 people. More than 100 boats sink, $138 million in damage.
Hurricane Camille, Southern U.S. – Aug. 17-19, 1969: Costliest storm up to this date in the U.S., 218 mph winds devastate Louisiana and Mississippi, thousands left homeless, over one billion dollars in damages. Storm stalls over Virginia, dumping up to 46 inches of rain in only six hours over the headwaters of the James River. Nelson County, VA is virtually erased when an estimated 630 million tons of water is dumped on it by the storm. 1000’s of landslides, dead and rotting animal carcasses. Noise from storm measured at 120 decibels.
Compiled by Randall W. Carlson, 2009
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