This past month, February 2016, broke another heat record as it was the warmest month recorded in history on Earth, surpassing the previous global record set back in December 2015.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA’s newly released data announced on Thursday, shows that average temperatures across land and sea were more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, and the highest on record for any February. Modern records have been kept since 1880.
The NASA data shows the average global surface temperature in February was 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month between 1951-1980, a far bigger margin than ever seen before. The previous record, set just one month earlier in January, was 1.15C above the long-term average for that month.
February was the warmest month on record, and 2016 is heading to become the warmest year on record, warmer even than 2015 which had itself set a clear record over previous warmest years, according to the global surface temperature measurements compiled and released by NASA.
In December 2015, NASA also recorded last year as the warmest in 136 years of modern temperature records.
The previous all-time monthly record was set in December; February’s temperatures bested it by 0.16 degrees. The previous record-high for February was set in 1998.
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Last month February 2016, also marked the tenth straight month that a monthly global temperature record was broken, according to the NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information. The six highest monthly temperature departures have been recorded in the past six months.
Most land surfaces across the planet experienced “unusually warm” temperatures for the short month, with the hottest occurring in North America, Asia and the Arctic.
February was much warmer in the United States, Central Europe, parts of southwest Asia and the Middle East, northern and southern Africa, northern and central South America, northern Australia and the equatorial eastern and central Pacific, associated with the strong El Niño.
El Niño is a major driver of the recent uptick in global temperatures. The cycle brings warmer ocean temperatures to large portions of the Pacific Ocean, which provide extra heat to warm the planet. So El Niño years tend to be hotter than neutral or La Niña years. El Niño primarily impacts tropical and mid-latitude regions.
February also marks the 10th consecutive month that ranks as the hottest one of that particular month in the 135-year record — so for the past 10 months, we’ve had the hottest January on record, the hottest December ever, the hottest November, etc. This means by May we may have completed the 12-month sweep.
However, NASA reports that El Niño isn’t the only factor to blame for the rising heat; increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions have also aided Earth’s temperature increase since the late 19th century.
The UN climate summit in Paris in December confirmed 2C as the danger limit for global warming which should not be passed. But it also agreed to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5C, a target now looking highly optimistic.