17 March 2016
February 2016 was the hottest month ever measured on Earth. The planet broke a heat record for the 10th month in a row in February and we broke it by a record amount as well. The heat was nothing short of amazing with Alaska averaging out at over 12 degrees above normal. That is nothing less than stunning. The odds that this warmth is part of a natural cycle have been shown to be (depending on how you look at it) at least 1500 to one. More likely several thousand to a million to one. This heat is the result of rising greenhouse gas levels and the strong El Nino in the Pacific. El Nino events are always warm years globally, but to pass the record by this much would almost certainly not have happened if greenhouse gas levels were not the highest in many thousands of years.
More from NOAA:
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for February 2016 was the highest for February in the 137-year period of record, at 1.21°C (2.18°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F). This not only was the highest for February in the 1880–2016 record—surpassing the previous record set in 2015 by 0.33°C / 0.59°F—but it surpassed the all-time monthly record set just two months ago in December 2015 by 0.09°C (0.16°F). Overall, the six highest monthly temperature departures in the record have all occurred in the past six months. February 2016 also marks the 10th consecutive month a monthly global temperature record has been broken.
The average global temperature across land surfaces was 2.31°C (4.16°F) above the 20th century average of 3.2°C (37.8°F), the highest February temperature on record, surpassing the previous records set in 1998 and 2015 by 0.63°C (1.13°F) and surpassing the all-time single-month record set in March 2008 by 0.43°C (0.77°F).
Most of Earth’s land surfaces were warmer than average or much warmer than average, according to the Land & Ocean Temperature Percentiles map above, with record warmth notable across various areas of South America, much of southern Africa, southern and eastern Europe, around the Urals of Russia, and most of Southeast Asia stretching to northern Australia. Of significance, a vast region stretching from central Russia into eastern Europe, along with most of Alaska, observed February temperatures more than 5°C (9°F) above the 1981–2010 average, beyond the upper bounds of the Land & Ocean Temperature Departure from Average map shown above. A few pockets in Asia were cooler than average, including part of Far East Russia, with one area record cold in the upper Kamchatka Peninsula.
Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):
- Australia observed its ninth warmest February since national records began in 1910, with a mean temperature 0.92°C (1.66°F) above the 1961–1990 average. The average maximum temperature for the country was eighth highest, at 1.43°C (2.57°F) above average.
- New Zealand observed its second warmest February and second warmest month of any month since national records began in 1909, at 2.2°C (4.0°F) above the 1981–2010 average and behind February 1998 by only 0.1°C (0.2°F).
- Strong west and southwest winds contributed to an average February temperature inGermany that was 3.0°C (5.4°F) above the 1961–1990 average.
- February was the second warmest for Austria, behind 1966, since national records commenced in 1767, with a monthly temperature 4.1°C (7.4°F) higher than the 1981–2010 average. On February 22nd the temperature reached 23.2°C (73.7°F) in Pottschach in Lower Austria, tying the record for the warmest February day recorded in the country.
- February was mild in Sweden, where monthly temperatures were generally 2–4°C (4–7°F) higher than the 1961–1990 average. In northeastern Norrland, Febraury temperatures were as high as 6°C (11°F) above average. However, 2014 and 2015 were both milder than February 2016.
- In Canada, both minimum and maximum temperature records were set during a “roller coaster” month, according to the Ontario Weather Review. Early in the month, on February 3rd, the temperature in Toronto reached 16°C (60.8°F), the highest February temperature ever recorded for the city. A little over a week later, during February 13th–14th, cold air shot down from the north, breaking minimum temperature records across southern and part of northeastern Ontario. The temperature drop over that 10-day period was extreme. Among the most extreme, the town of Beatrice, to the east of Georgian Bay, went from a high temperature of 8°C (46°F) to a minimum of -41°C (-42°F), a difference of 49°C (88°F).
- In the United States, Alaska reported its warmest February in its 92-year period of record, at 6.9°C (12.4°F) higher than the 20th century average. The contiguous U.S. was seventh warmest in its 122-year period of record, at 3.18°C (5.72°F) above average, with the west and extreme northeast observing the highest departures from average.
- The average February temperature was about 3.0°C (5°F) higher than the 1981–2010 average in Venezuela and northern Colombia, while temperatures were about 0.5°C (0.9°F) below average in southern Argentina.