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EarthSky // Earth, Science Wire Release Date: Mar 22, 2016

February 2016 soars past previous warmth record

February 2016 was the warmest February in 136 years of modern temperature records. Last month deviated more from normal than any month on record.

Image credit: NASA

The map above depicts global temperature anomalies for February 2016. It does not show absolute temperatures; instead it shows how much warmer or cooler the Earth was compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980. Image credit: NASA

The average global temperature in February 2106 was about 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the previous record (February 1998), according to an analysis by NASA scientists. February 2016 was 1.35 degrees Celsius above the 1951–1980 average. The month of February 1998 was 0.88°C above it. Both records were set during strong El Niño events.

Last month’s difference from the base line marked the greatest monthly departure on record. The next biggest departure happened just the month before, in January 2016.

Almost all land surfaces on Earth experienced unusually warm temperatures in February 2016. The warmest temperatures occurred in Asia, North America, and the Arctic. Two of the exceptions were the Kamchatka Peninsula and a small portion of southeast Asia, which saw unusually cool temperatures. In the map about, note the clear fingerprint of El Niño in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

This chart plots the global temperature anomaly for each month of the year since 1980. Each February is highlighted with a red dot. All dots, red or gray, show how much global temperatures rose above or below the 1951–1980 average. Despite monthly variability, the long-term trend due to global warming is clear and now punctuated by the unusually warm data point for February 2016. Image credit: NASA

This chart plots the global temperature anomaly for each month of the year since 1980. Each February is highlighted with a red dot. All dots, red or gray, show how much global temperatures rose above or below the 1951–1980 average. Despite monthly variability, the long-term trend due to global warming is clear and now punctuated by the unusually warm data point for February 2016. Image credit: NASA

Meteorologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson at Weather Underground said:

This result is a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases.

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Bottom line: NASA reports that February 2016 was the warmest February in 136 years of modern temperature records.

Read more from NASA’s Earth Observatory