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February Keeps the Planet’s Warm Streak Alive: NOAA

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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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Comments

By Ben Lieberman
on March 14th, 2013

This streak is stunning. Even with pronounced warming, it would hardly be surprising to have the occasional month below the 20th century norm unless, as is the case, the warming signal was incredibly powerful to outweigh other forms of variation.

But what I find truly incredible about this streak is the fact that mainstream press, politicians, and, in fact, many others just do not seem to care.  I’ve tried to encourage my local paper, the Boston Globe, to run a story about this, but with no luck.  How many months in a row would the streak have to continue for the Globe to find this newsworthy? 500? 1000? 10,000? 1 million?
As for opinion columnists and pundits, they could care less. They act as if they have some kind of backup planet in their pocket. 
The coverage here is great. The lack of coverage elsewhere is a scandal.

If hundreds of media outlets are so lazy that hey routinely fill air time or space with updates on weekly fluctuations in gas prices they could at least tell us what is happening to our climate.

Reply to this comment

By Michael D Smith (Near Chicago, IL)
on March 15th, 2013

Pretty much right on the 30 year climatology…  http://t.co/r6zQyzQlCZ .  Off by 0.001°C Wow.

Reply to this comment

By jimeh
on March 24th, 2013

Unfortunately, the warming streak mentioned above, while global, only measures air temperature, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a vast amount of the heat produced by global warming is being transferred to the world oceans, causing a massive loss of ice on both poles and raises the spector of profound changes in the earth’s weather patterns and of course an acceleration of thermal expansion which is expected to be the largest contributing factor to the rise in sea levels over the next decades.  In 2000 humanity had a real opportunity to keep the global impact of climate change under 1C.  Now due to petty political ideology and capitalistic greed of a most spectacul shortsightedness, It now looks like it will be impossible to keep warming under 3C and the consequences of such an increase appear more dire.  The climate of boyhood in Minnesota and the natural splendour it supported will already disappearing and will inevitable be lost forever.  What we are left with now is a brutal fight against time to hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, from famine, disease and societal collapse.

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