February was warmest month in satellite record
Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.12 C per decade
February temperatures (preliminary)
Global composite temp.: +0.83 C (about 1.50 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.
Northern Hemisphere: +1.17 C (about 2.11 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.
Southern Hemisphere: +0.50 C (about 0.90 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.
Tropics: +0.99 C (about 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.
January temperatures (revised):
Global Composite: +0.54 C above 30-year average
Northern Hemisphere: +0.69 C above 30-year average
Southern Hemisphere: +0.39 C above 30-year average
Tropics: +0.85 C above 30-year average
(All temperature anomalies are based on a 30-year average (1981-2010) for the month reported.)
Notes on data released March 1, 2016:
By a statistically significant amount, February 2016 was the warmest month in the satellite temperature record, according to Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Interestingly, however, that record might have as much to do with an extraordinarily warm month in the Arctic as it does with warming caused by the El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event.
Globally, the average temperature anomaly in February (+0.83 C) was warmer than the previous record set in April 1998 (+0.74 C) during the so-called “El Niño of the century.”
In the Northern Hemisphere, the February anomaly (+1.17 C) was a full 0.32 C (0.58 F) warmer than the previous NH record (+0.85 C) set in April 1998. Temperatures in the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere were not at record levels in February.
While the Arctic temperature anomaly is large, big temperature swings in the Arctic region aren’t unusual, especially during the winter months. Those swings are also normally somewhat transient, so the extra heat represented in February could dissipate over the next few weeks. If that happens, it doesn’t appear the heat from the El Niño by itself will be enough to continue pushing temperatures to new records later in the year, in which case this February anomaly might stand out as a singular spike in the dataset rather than part of an ongoing trend.
The warmest months in the satellite temperature record are:
Warmest Months, Global
How much warmer than seasonal norms
Feb. 2016 0.83 C
Apr. 1998 0.74 C
Feb. 1998 0.65 C
May 1998 0.64 C
June 1998 0.57 C
Jan. 2016 0.54 C
Aug. 1998 0.52 C
Mar. 2010 0.50 C
Jan. 1998 0.48 C
Mar. 1998 0.47 C
Feb. 2010 0.47 C
Warmest NH Months
Feb. 2016 1.17 C
Apr. 1998 0.85 C
Jan. 2016 0.70 C
Feb. 1998 0.66 C
July 1998 0.65 C
Oct. 2015 0.63 C
June 1998 0.60 C
Jan. 2010 0.60 C
May 2010 0.60 C
Mar. 2010 0.59 C
Warmest Februaries, Global
2016 0.83 C
1998 0.65 C
2010 0.47 C
2002 0.30 C
2003 0.25 C
2004 0.25 C
2007 0.19 C
2015 0.19 C
2005 0.18 C
2006 0.17 C
1999 0.17 C
Compared to seasonal norms, the warmest average temperature anomaly on Earth in February was over north central Russia, near the small town of Beloyarsky. February temperatures there averaged 5.20 C (about 9.36 degrees F) warmer than seasonal norms. Compared to seasonal norms, the coolest average temperature on Earth in February was over the Sea of Okhotsk, between the Russian mainland and the Kamchatka Peninsula, where the average February 2016 temperature was 3.25 C (about 5.85 degrees F) cooler than normal for February.
The complete version 6 beta lower troposphere dataset is available here:
Archived color maps of local temperature anomalies are available on-line at:
As part of an ongoing joint project between UAHuntsville, NOAA and NASA, Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer, an ESSC principal scientist, use data gathered by advanced microwave sounding units on NOAA and NASA satellites to get accurate temperature readings for almost all regions of the Earth. This includes remote desert, ocean and rain forest areas where reliable climate data are not otherwise available. The satellite-based instruments measure the temperature of the atmosphere from the surface up to an altitude of about eight kilometers above sea level. Once the monthly temperature data are collected and processed, they are placed in a “public” computer file for immediate access by atmospheric scientists in the U.S. and abroad.
Neither Christy nor Spencer receives any research support or funding from oil, coal or industrial companies or organizations, or from any private or special interest groups. All of their climate research funding comes from federal and state grants or contracts.
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Dr. Roy Spence adds from his blog:
Further Analysis of the Record February Warmth
The 1-month increase of +0.29 C in global average temperature from January to February is not unprecedented…for example, during the last El Nino (2009-10) there was +0.38 C warming from December to January.
The February warmth is likely being dominated by the warm El Nino conditions, which tends to have peak warmth in the troposphere close to February…but it appears that isn’t the whole story, since the tropical anomaly for February 2016 (+0.99 C) is still about 0.3 C below the February 1998 value during the super-El Nino of that year. In addition to the expected tropical warmth, scattered regional warmth outside the tropics led to a record warm value for extratropical Northern Hemispheric land areas, with a whopping +1.46 C anomaly in February…fully 0.5 deg. C above any previous monthly anomaly (!):
As a sanity check on the latest data, I compared our monthly anomalies to the 2m surface temperatures analysed from the NCEP CFSv2 by Ryan Maue atWeatherBell.com. His calculated global average anomalies (from the 1981-2010 mean) for January and February 2016 were +0.51 and +0.70 C, respectively, which is close to our +0.54 and +0.83 C values (some amplification of tropospheric anomalies vs. surface is always seen during El Nino). Here are the regional temperature anomaly patterns for February in the two datasets:
Even though the CFSv2 surface temperature analysis in the above plot is not “official”, I think it is a pretty good representation of what really happened last month, since it includes all sources of data in a physically consistent way within the daily weather forecast model framework. Note that on a monthly time scale we do not expect perfect correspondence between surface temperature and deep-tropospheric temperature anomaly patterns…especially in the deep tropics; the agreement in regional patterns seen above is about as good as it gets.