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February Keeps the Planet’s Warm Streak Alive: NOAA

By Lauren Morello

Warm conditions in February helped keep the planet’s remarkable hot streak intact, marking the 336th consecutive month that global temperatures rose above the 20th century average, according to data released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average global temperature reached 54.93°F last month, 1.03 degrees above the 20th century average. That makes February 2013 the ninth-warmest February — tied with 2003 — since record-keeping began in 1880.

It was also the 28th consecutive February with a global temperature above the 20th century average, NOAA said, helped along by unusual warmth in much of Mexico, Central America, the northern half of South America, parts of Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Global map showing the areas that were warmer than average (red) or cooler than average (blue) during the month of February.
Click on image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA.

Temperatures remained above-normal in Australia, which just ended its warmest summer in history by recording its hottest single month, January 2013.

Conditions in February were warmer than the 1961-1990 average for Australia. Minimum temperatures there last month rank as the 16th warmest recorded during the month of February, while maximum temperatures stand as the 35th warmest.

The country was also drier than normal, NOAA said, receiving 78 percent of its average February rainfall last month, despite heavy precipitation from slow-moving storm systems, including Tropical Cyclone Rusty.

Parts of western Europe bucked the global temperature trend, experiencing a cooler-than-normal February. Conditions in Norway were 1.4°F chillier than the 1961-1990 average. Temperatures in the Alps were up to 7.4°F colder than average in February, NOAA said. And farther north, parts of Siberia set record cold marks.

But there were some notable exceptions to that European cooling, including northern Iceland. Conditions there were “exceptionally warm,” according to the Iceland Meteorological Office. Temperatures last month in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, rank as the third warmest in the country’s 143-year record.

Snow cover extent in North America and Eurasia was above average in February, driving the North American total to 18 million square miles, according to the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. That makes February's snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere the 16th largest in a 47-year record.

Antarctic sea ice extent reached 1.48 million square miles last month, 310,00 square miles above the 1981-2010 average. That makes February’s average sea ice extent the third-largest monthly figure on record.

Antarctica’s sea ice also reached its annual summer minimum last month, peaking at 1.42 million square miles, the second-largest annual minimum extent recorded there.

But Arctic sea ice extent was well below normal in February, after setting a new summer minimum in 2012.

February sea ice extent reached just 5.66 million square miles, 270,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. That stands as the seventh-smallest monthly extent on record, NOAA said.

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