Scientists say February was hotter than usual with average temperatures more than two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. February is the third month in a row with above normal temperatures according to an analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies
The February air was warmer by 1.35 degrees Celsius ( 2.43 degrees Fahrenheit), topping January’s record. NASA, which has been keeping a global temperature database since 1880, says February’s high temperatures was an extreme anomaly in their database. The Japanese Meteorological Agency concurred with NASA in their recent global temperature analysis saying December-February almost doubled the previous record warm anomaly for those three months, set during the 1997-1998 strong El Niño (the biggest since 1998). The higher temperatures are alarming scientists because previous temperature spikes were usually by hundredths or tenths of degrees. But this hotter trend is attributed to a combination of a strong El Niño and man-made global warming caused largely by emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
However, “The 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,” said John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
The United Nations Climate Summit in Paris in December, 2015, put a cap on how high temperatures could rise before which triggering an alarm. The previous danger limit was 2 degrees Celsius higher than the normal temperature. Countries at the summit agreed to limit warming to 1.5 Celsius.
2015 was the hottest year on record since 1859 but warming temperatures in 2016 could break that record for the third year in a row. The warmer waters off northern Australia raised concerns about the disappearing coral loss and the spreading of coral bleaching caused the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority to issue a new alert after divers discovered widespread loss of coral. Some areas in the Arctic experienced temperatures as much as 29 degrees warmer than average last month. Warmer weather was seen in the northern hemisphere higher latitudes. Much of Alaska into western and central Canada, as well as eastern Europe, Scandinavia and much of Russia were at least 4 degrees celsius (roughly 7 degrees Fahrenheit) above February averages, according to NASA/GISS.
Climate change is usually assessed over years and decades, and 2015 shattered the record set in 2014 for the hottest year seen. Temperature data has been recorded as far back as 1850. Climate scientists emphasize that whether a given month is a fraction of a degree warmer or cooler than a previous month isn’t as important as the long-term, overall trend. Disconcerting for many climatologists and experts is the dramatic rise of temperatures.