Earth Posts Second Warmest February and Winter on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with February 2017 marking not only the second warmest February on record but also closing out the planet’s second warmest meteorological winter.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for February – over both land and sea surfaces – was 55.66°F, which is 1.76°F above the 20th-century average. Only February 2016 was warmer.

This February also marked the 386th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

The three-month period of December, January, and February – meteorological winter in the northern hemisphere – was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.60°F above the 20th century average of 53.8°F. That makes it the second warmest winter on record, trailing only the 2015-16 season.

While heat dominated most of the planet this winter, some places were particularly warm, including much of North America and Asia. Here in the contiguous US, it was our sixth warmest winter on record.

Coming on the heels of a five-month long La Niña event, which had a modest cooling effect, these soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

Winter 2016-17 was Earth’s 2nd warmest winter season on record. Credit: NOAA

NYC Hits 70° in February for the First Time in Twenty Years

It is only February, but it felt more like May in New York City on Friday. The temperature in Central Park soared to 70°F, which is a whopping 26°F above average.

According to the NWS, this was the first time in twenty years that the city had a reading in the 70s during the month of February. However, it was not a record breaker. That honor belongs to February 24, 1985 when the mercury hit 75°F.

The primary driver of these balmy conditions is a strong Bermuda High off the east coast of the US that is funneling warm southern air into the region.

Many New Yorkers got out to enjoy this early spring preview and described it as “amazing” or “unbelievable”. Personally, it felt a little surreal to see rowboats out in Central Park during a month when sledding and ice-skating are usually the norm.

That said, a chilly change will be in the air later this weekend when temperatures are expected to return to more seasonable levels.

Rowboats on The Lake in Central Park on Feb 24, 2017 when the temperature hit 70°F in NYC. Credit: Melissa Fleming

A Spring-like February Weekend in NYC

Between picnics in the park and overflowing crowds at local ice cream shops, it felt more like late April than mid-February in New York City this holiday weekend.

The temperature in Central Park soared to 63°F on Saturday and 65°F on Sunday. Both days missed setting a new record high by only a few degrees. Overnight lows were also unusually mild. According to the NWS, a new record warm minimum temperature was set on Sunday with a reading of 53°F. The previous record of 49°F was established in 1997.

The city’s normal high for this time of year is 43°F.  Its normal low is 30°F.

Any snow that was left over from the storm earlier this month was no match for these spring-like temperatures.  More abnormally warm conditions are expected later this week, so keep that frisbee handy.

Not much snow left in NYC after a weekend with temperatures in the 60s. Credit: Melissa Fleming

January 2017: Earth’s Third Warmest January on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with January 2017 marking the third warmest January ever recorded on this planet. Only the Januarys of 2016 and 2007 were warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 55.18°F. That is 1.58°F above the 20th-century average.

January was also the 385th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

While heat dominated most of the planet this January, some places were particularly warm, including the eastern half of the United States and most of Canada. For the contiguous US as a whole, it was our 18th warmest January on NOAA’s books.

Coming on the heels of 2016 – Earth’s third consecutive warmest year on record – these soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. Whereas El Niño gave global temperatures a boost in the early part of last year, it dissipated in the spring. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in January.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

January 2017 was Earth’s 3rd warmest January on record. Credit: NOAA

A Record Warm February Day in NYC

Walking around New York City on Wednesday, it was difficult to remember that it was still February. The temperature soared to 62°F in Central Park, setting a new record high for the date. The previous record of 61°F had been in place since 1965.

This was the second time this winter that a daily high-temperature record was broken in the Big Apple. The city’s normal high for this time of year is 40°F.

Venturing out without coats and enjoying lunch alfresco, many New Yorkers took full advantage of the unseasonable warmth. These spring-like conditions, however, will be short-lived. The city’s first major snowstorm of the season is expected to hit early Thursday morning. Get ready for weather whiplash!

Temperatures soared to record levels in NYC on Feb 8th. Credit: The Weather Gamut

2016: Earth’s Third Consecutive Warmest Year on Record

It’s official, 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded on this planet.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.69°F. That is a staggering 1.69°F above the 20th-century average and surpasses the previous annual record that was set just last year. That makes 2016 the third year in a row to break a global temperature record.

As remarkable as this feat is, it does not come as much of a surprise. During the year, eight new global monthly temperature records were set.

A strong El Niño event influenced this record warmth, but it does not tell the whole story as it dissipated in June and was replaced by its cooler counterpart, La Niña, in the autumn. Therefore, the long-term trend of human-caused climate change was also a key factor. NOAA reports that 2016 marked the 40th consecutive year that our annual global temperature was above its long-term norm.

While heat dominated the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Here in the contiguous US, it was our second warmest year on record.

Looking at the bigger picture, all sixteen years of this century rank among the seventeen warmest ever recorded and five were record breakers (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016). As greenhouse gases – the main drivers of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

2016 was Earth’s third consecutive warmest year on record. Credit: NOAA

A Look at Why Death Valley is the Hottest, Driest, and Lowest Place in US

Death Valley National Park is famous for being the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the United States. The interesting thing about all these extremes, as I learned during a recent visit, is how they interconnect.

Situated in eastern California near the Nevada border, the park’s topography is known as basin and range. This is where the earth’s crust is rifting apart, creating mountains in some areas and deep basins in others. Death Valley is a long, narrow basin that reaches a depth of 282 feet below sea level. It is also in the rain shadow of four different mountain ranges to the west – the Coastal Range, the Sierra Nevada, the Argus Range, and the Panamint Range.

As storms move inland from the Pacific, they must rise up and over each range. In doing so, they cool and their water vapor condenses into rain or snow that falls on the western side of these mountains. By the time a storm system reaches Death Valley, it has lost most of its moisture. The average annual rainfall in the park, according to NOAA, is just 2.36 inches.

These dry conditions, along with the valley’s below-sea-level elevation, help to produce the park’s famous heat. With cloud free skies and sparse vegetation, a maximum amount of sunlight can reach the ground. The rocks and parched soil absorb the heat and radiate it into the air. The warm air rises but becomes trapped by the steep valley walls. After cooling slightly, it is recycled back toward the valley floor where it is heated even further by atmospheric compression. During the summer months, this process generates hot winds and sizzling temperatures. The average high temperature in the park ranges from 67°F in January to 116°F in July. The hottest temperature ever recorded was 134°F on July 10, 1913 – a world record.

Looking ahead, as the climate changes, the southwestern region of the US is expected to become even hotter and drier. It seems like only a matter of time before Death Valley breaks its own heat record.

At 282 feet below sea level, Basin in Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in the US. Credit: Melissa Fleming

A Record Warm January Day in NYC

The calendar says January, but it felt more like April in New York City on Thursday. The temperature soared to 66°F in Central Park, setting a new record high for the date. The previous record of 64°F stood since 1890. The overnight low temperature of 47°F was also record warm.

The city’s normal high this time of year is 38°F, but a “January thaw” is not unusual. Nevertheless, after getting 6.3 inches of snow over the weekend and temperatures only reaching the mid-20s on Monday, these spring-like conditions felt like weather whiplash.

Many New Yorkers enjoyed the unseasonable warmth, while others were sad to see the snow melt away. It is, however, still January. So, regardless of opinions, keep your winter gear handy.

January 12th brought NYC a record high temperature and a record warm low temperature. Credit: The Weather Gamut

2016 was Second Warmest Year on Record for US

2016 was the second-warmest year ever recorded in the continental US.

The average annual temperature of the lower 48 states, according to NOAA’s National Centers of Environmental Information, was 54.9°F. That is a whopping 2.9°F above the 20th century average and only 0.4°F shy of the record that was set in 2012. This also marks the 20th consecutive year that the annual average temperature for the contiguous US was above its long-term norm.

From coast to coast, every state posted one of their top-seven warmest years. Georgia was record warm and Alaska, the nation’s northern most state, had its third consecutive warmest year on record. “The breadth of the 2016 warmth is unparalleled in the nation’s climate history,” NOAA said. “No other year had as many states breaking or close to breaking their warmest annual average temperature.”

Credit: NOAA

2016 was also notable for its unusual number of weather and climate disasters that each totaled more than $1 billion in damages. In all, fifteen such events collectively caused $46 billion in direct costs and claimed the live of 138 people across the US. These incidents included drought, wildfire, four inland floods, eight severe storms, and a tropical cyclone. Only 2011, with sixteen events, produced more billion-dollar disasters.

Credit: NOAA

The exceptional warmth of 2016 was driven by a combination of strong El Niño conditions at the beginning of the year and the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. These soaring temperatures, however, were not limited to US borders. Later this month, NOAA is expected to announce that 2016 was the planet’s warmest year on record for the third year in a row.

Weather records for the contiguous United States date back to 1895.

2016 Ties for 3rd Warmest Year on Record in NYC

New York City experienced some noteworthy weather in 2016, especially swinging between the extremes of record cold and record warmth. In the end, however, the warmth won out. The city’s average annual temperature in Central Park was 57.2°F, which is 2.2°F above normal. That means 2016 tied 1998 for NYC’s third warmest year on record!

With a strong El Niño in place at the beginning of the year, the city experienced its second warmest winter ever recorded. That said, a number of arctic outbreaks sent temperatures plummeting a few times throughout the season. The coldest day of the year came on February 14 when the temperature dropped to -1°F – a new record low for the date.

When summer rolled around, it brought the city a number of very hot and humid days. The city typically sees 15 days per year with temperatures in the 90s, but 2016 produced a sweltering 22. The hottest day came on August 13 when the mercury soared to 96°F in Central Park. When humidity was factored in, the heat index or real feel temperature was in the triple digits.

While El Niño gave readings a boost early in the year, it dissipated in spring and was replaced by its cooler sister, La Niña. Nonetheless, every month of 2016 posted an above average temperature in NYC.

Precipitation was also erratic. While there were a number of heavy rain events, including some that broke daily rainfall records such as the 2.22 inches that came down on November 29, the city was mostly dry. Overall, NYC received 42.17 inches of rain in Central Park for the entire year. That is 7.77 inches below normal. This dearth of rain caused moderate to severe drought conditions across the city.

Snowfall, ironically, was abundant. During one of the year’s arctic blasts, a large amount of moisture was also in place to produce a major show event. Dubbed the “Blizzard of 2016”, this one storm dumped 27.5 inches of snow on the city. It was the Big Apple’s biggest snowstorm on record. For the calendar year as a whole, the city accumulated 35.3 inches of snow, which is 9.5 inches above average.

Records for the Central Park Climate Station date back to 1873.

Every month of 2016 posted an above average temperature in NYC. Credit: The Weather Gamut

Only four months of 2016 produced average to above average rainfall in NYC. Credit: The Weather Gamut