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We just had the warmest February on record » Yale Climate Connections

The second month of 2024 was Earth’s warmest February since global record-keeping began in 1850, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, or NCEI, reported Mar. 14. The December-February period (summer in the Southern Hemisphere, winter in the Northern Hemisphere) was also the warmest on record.

Global weather agencies were in agreement on the February record, including NASA, which placed February at 1.67 degrees Celsius (3.01 °F) above the 1880-1899 period, its best estimate for when preindustrial temperatures last occurred. This beat the previous record from February 2016 by 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.13 °F). February 2024 had the second-greatest departure from average of any month in the NASA database, behind September 2023. The Japan Meteorological Agency and the European Copernicus Climate Change Service also rated February 2024 as the warmest February on record.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for February 2024, the world’s warmest February since record-keeping began in 1850. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI)

Land areas had their second-warmest February on record in 2024, according to NOAA, and for the 11th consecutive month, global ocean temperatures were the warmest on record. The record heat in the Southern Hemisphere oceans is poised to deliver the worst coral bleaching event in recorded history (see tweet below), and record warmth covered nearly all of the tropical and eastern North Atlantic. It was the warmest February on record for Europe, North America, and South America, and the second warmest for Africa.

As we discussed last week, the contiguous U.S. had its third-warmest February on record and its warmest winter (December-February) on record.

El Niño weakens; La Niña likely by summer

The strong El Niño event in the Eastern Pacific weakened during February, NOAA reported in its March monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. Neutral conditions are expected to emerge by the Northern Hemisphere spring (83% chance for April-May-June), and the odds of La Niña by mid-2024 continue to climb, with increasing long-range model support. The subsurface waters of the equatorial Pacific are already cooler than average, and a small area of below-average sea surface temperatures has emerged in the far eastern tropical Pacific.

Long-range ENSO predictions are typically not reliable until after northern spring, but there is enhanced predictability at this point when a strong El Niño event is in progress. There is also some climatological support: In records going back to 1950, all four of the El Niño events that were as strong as the current one transitioned to La Niña conditions in the following year.

Read: Will La Niña return this fall? The tea leaves are unusually strong

The March forecast from NOAA and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society has raised the odds again from the previous month, now calling for a 62% chance of La Niña to be in place by June-August 2024. For the climatological peak of the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season (August-September-October), the forecast called for an 82% chance of La Niña, a 17% chance of ENSO-neutral, and a mere 1% chance of El Niño. El Niño conditions tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity through an increase in wind shear, but La Niña conditions tend to have the opposite effect.

Deadliest weather disaster of 2024 so far: wildfires in Chile kill 131

Horrific wildfires, fueled by near-record drought and extreme heat brought on by climate change and El Niño, swept through the coastal city of coastal city of Viña del Mar, Chile, on Feb. 2-3. The death toll of at least 131 makes this Earth’s fifth-deadliest wildfire since 1900. The preliminary cost of $1 billion USD would make the disaster Chile’s second billion-dollar weather disaster on record. The other was a 2015 flood that cost $1.9 billion (inflation-adjusted).

Figure 2. Deadliest wildfires globally since 1900, according to EM-DAT, the international disaster database. Five out of 10 of these wildfires have occurred since 2018 (highlighted in yellow). Increased exposure, climate change, and fire-prone invasive plants are all factors in this unfortunate trend.

Read: Chile’s wildfire death toll rises above 130

Arctic sea ice: 15th-lowest February extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during February 2024 was the 15th-lowest in the 45-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC, and is approaching its annual maximum, which usually occurs in March. Though is it heartening to see Arctic sea ice not near a record low, the ice is quite thin, and winter ice extent is a poor indicator of what the summer and fall extent will be.

Antarctic sea ice extent in February was the second-lowest on record, behind the record set in 2023. Antarctic sea ice extent appears to have reached its seasonal minimum during the last week of February, ending up as tied with 2022 for second-lowest in the satellite data record, just above 2023. Thus, the last three years are the three lowest in the 46-year record.

Notable global heat and cold marks for February 2024

The information below is courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera. Follow him on Twitter: @extremetemps:

– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 44.6°C (112.3°F) at Bokoro, Chad, Feb. 29;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -58.0°C (-72.4°F) at Summit, Greenland, Feb. 1;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 49.9°C (121.8°F) at Carnarvon, Australia, Feb. 18; and
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -64.3°C (-83.7°F) at Concordia, Antarctica, Feb. 29.

Major weather stations in February: 10 all-time heat records, no all-time cold records

Among global stations with a record of at least 40 years, 10 set, not just tied, an all-time heat record in February; no stations set an all-time cold record:

Manjimup (Australia) max. 42.8°C, February 1;
Llay Llay (Chile) max. 42.5°C, February 3;
San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) max. 38.3°C, February 4;
Dimbokro (Cote d’ Ivoire) max. 41.3°C, February 16;
Kaimana (Indonesia) max. 37.2°C, February 17;
Carnarvon (Australia) max. 49.9°C, February 18;
Geraldton (Australia) max. 49.3°C, February 18;
Kalbarri (Australia) max. 48.1°C, February 18;
Pearce RAAF (Australia) max. 46.1°C, February 19; and
Ravensthorpe (Australia) max. 46.0°C, February 20.

One all-time national/territorial heat record beaten or tied as of the end of February

Cocos Islands (Australia): 32.8°C (91.0°F), Feb. 28 and Feb. 29.

Thirty-three monthly national/territorial heat records beaten or tied as of the end of February

In addition to the one all-time national/territorial record set so far in 2024, 33 nations or territories have set monthly all-time heat records in 2024, for a total of 34 such records:

– Jan. (15): Mayotte, Dominica, Saba, Cocos Islands, Malta, Hong Kong, Ivory Coast, Maldives, Andorra, Portugal, Costa Rica, UK, Seychelles, Martinique, St. Barthelemy
– Feb. (18): Maldives, French Guiana, Guyana, Dominica, Curacao, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, U.S. Virgin Islands, Belize, North Korea, Morocco, French Southern Territories, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Peru, Laos, Chad, Togo

One monthly national/territorial cold record beaten or tied as of the end of February

China set an all-time cold record for the month of February.

Hemispherical and continental temperature records in 2024

– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in January in Asia: 28.5°C (83.3°F) at Bangkok Klong Thoey, Thailand, Jan. 14

– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February in Asia: 29.1°C (84.1°F) at Diego Garcia (British Indian Territories), Feb. 18

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