Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with February 2016 marking the warmest February on record and closing out the warmest meteorological winter ever recorded for the entire planet.
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 56.08°F, which is a staggering 2.18°F above the 20th century average. This marks the highest departure from average for any month on record, surpassing the previous record set just two months ago in December 2015 by 0.16°F. February 2016 was also the 10th month is a row to break a monthly temperature record.
The three-month period of December, January, and February – known as meteorological winter in the northern hemisphere – was also a record breaker. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 2.03°F above the 20th century average. That is 0.52°F above the previous record that was set last year.
While heat dominated most of the planet this winter, some places were particularly warm, including much of North America and Europe. Here in the contiguous US, it was our warmest winter on record.
These soaring temperatures, scientists say, were fueled by a combination of the current El Niño – a natural periodic climate phenomenon in the Pacific that boosts global temperatures – and the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While not to discount the strong influence El Niño has on the climate, it should be noted that no other El Niño event of comparable strength has produced temperature anomalies as large as the ones seen recently. Also, it is important to remember that fifteen of the sixteen warmest years on record have occurred this century and they were not all El Niño years.
Year to date, the first two months of 2016 were the warmest such period on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.