It’s beginning to become the norm: another record-breaking month of warmth across the globe. And once again, February 2016 knocked it out of the ballpark.
According to recent data by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the temperature anomaly for the month of February was 1.35 C above the 1951 to 1980 average. While that may not sound like a lot, when it comes to a warming planet, it’s very significant. Remember the Paris climate talks? A (somewhat arbitrary) goal was to keep the planet from warming 2 C.
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To put the 1.35 C into perspective, the previous record-holder for the month of February was .88 C set in 1988 and .87 C set in 2015.
Of course, it’s important to note that we are currently experiencing one of the strongest El Niños on record, and the last time we had one as strong as this one was in 1997–1998, which might account for the fact that every month since October 2015 have been record-breakers for that month.
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But it’s also important to note that even before El Niño reared his hot little head that 2014 was the warmest year on record, followed by 2015 (and that was before El Niño reached its peak strength).
That is indicating that the planet’s warmth is accelerating at a rate that is alarming climatologists.
Even Gavin Schmidt, the NASA GISS director took note of the surprising February warmth.
Normally I don’t comment on individual months (too much weather, not enough climate), but last month was special.https://t.co/nALWMlNDcP
— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) March 12, 2016
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the combined average temperature over land and sea surfaces was 1.21 C above the 20th century average. Though the two numbers vary, it still was the highest temperature for the month of February in the 137-year period of record-keeping.
February was the tenth month in a row that a monthly global temperature record was broken. As well, the six highest monthly temperature departures have all happened in the past six months.
In Alaska, the February temperature was 6.9 C higher than the 20th century average.
The NOAA report also noted some Canadian records: On February 3, temperatures in Toronto reached a record 16 C, the highest not just for the day, but for the month.
Then, over February 13 and 14, the temperature plummeted across the province, to the extreme, but nowhere as extreme as in Beatrice, Ont., where the temperature went from 8 C to a minimum of -41 C, a difference of 49 C.