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Early spring follows the hottest February on record

The early arrival of daffodils, diminishing snow in ski resorts, and sunbathing opportunities in the northern hemisphere hinted at an unusual climatic trend, which has now been confirmed by the European Union’s climate monitoring service. This year’s February has been officially recorded as the hottest ever, surpassing previous records with a global average temperature of 56.3°F (13.54°C). 

This surpasses the former record-holder, February 2016, by 0.21°F (0.12°C) and stands 1.45°F (0.81°C) above the global average for this month over the 1991-2020 period. Scientists attribute this worrying trend directly to the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

February joins a long streak of records

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), a part of the European Commission dedicated to climate monitoring, has detailed these findings. They base their conclusions on data gathered from a diverse array of sources, including weather stations, balloons, and satellites, offering a comprehensive view of the planet’s average air temperature over time. 

“February joins the long streak of records of the last few months,” said C3S director Carlo Buontempo. “As remarkable as this might appear, it is not really surprising as the continuous warming of the climate system inevitably leads to new temperature extremes.” 

“The climate responds to the actual concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere so, unless we manage to stabilize those, we will inevitably face new global temperature records and their consequences.”

This February’s record-setting warmth follows a pattern, being the ninth consecutive month to set a new record for its respective time of year. It was notably 3.18°F (1.77°C) warmer than the average for February during the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900. 

Paris Agreement commitments to limit warming 

Alarmingly, for several days in early February, global temperatures soared to levels 3.6°F (2°C) above those pre-industrial averages, challenging global commitments made under the Paris Agreement to limit warming.

However, these records do not suggest a breach of the Paris Agreement thresholds, which are based on long-term averages rather than single monthly records. 

February record for the highest sea surface temperature

In Europe alone, temperatures in February were significantly higher than historical averages, mirroring similar anomalies across other parts of the world including Siberia, North and South America, Africa, and Australia.

Beyond air temperatures, C3S also monitors sea surface temperatures, a key indicator of global warming. February saw the highest global sea surface temperature on record for any month, underscoring the comprehensive nature of current climate change trends. 

Greenhouse gas emissions 

With these ongoing changes, it’s possible that 2024 could see even more temperature records broken, continuing the alarming trend observed in 2023, which was marked by unprecedented global warmth from June onward, attributed largely to greenhouse gas emissions.

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and methane, the most critical greenhouse gases, reached new highs in 2023. This contributed to several months, including September, November, December, and notably July – the hottest month on record – setting new temperature benchmarks. 

“2023 was an exceptional year with climate records tumbling like dominoes. Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years,” concluded Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S. 


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