The Two Warmest Februaries on Earth Since 1880 Have Occurred the Past Two Years

Jon Erdman
Published: March 18, 2017


Global temperatures in February 2017 were the second warmest for any February in records dating to the late 19th century, according to three independent analyses released this week. 

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies calculated the Earth's mean temperature over land and water in February was 1.1 degrees Celsius above average, second only to February 2016's 1.32 degree Celsius departure from average in 137 years of records.

Graph of year-to-date global temperature anomalies in degrees Celsius for 2017 (short black trace) compared to the eight warmest years on record.

Another independent analysis from the Japan Meteorological Agency also found February 2017 was the second warmest February in its records dating to 1891. 

NOAA's analysis released Friday also found that February 2017 trailed only the previous February by a couple tenths of a degree in its dataset.

One year ago, a record-tying strong El Niño contributed to what was the largest global warm temperature anomaly of any single month in NASA's database.

(FLASHBACK: Most Abnormally Warm Month Recorded)

One degree Celsius may not sound like much, but in the realm of globally average temperature anomalies, it is very significant.

Before October 2015, not one of the 1,629 months in NASA's database dating to 1880 had a warm temperature anomaly of 1 degree Celsius.

Since October 2015, 8 of the past 17 months have seen such warm global anomalies, seven of those months occurring consecutively from October 2015 through April 2016.

(MORE: Record Warm Gulf of Mexico Winter Temperatures)

Leading the way in the unusual warmth in February 2017 was parts of central and eastern Asia, central and southern Canada, the central and eastern United States, Mexico, and the northern polar latitudes.

In addition to record warmth in 16 U.S. states, five Ontario cities, including Toronto, had their record warmest Februaries in 2017, according to the NOAA report.

(RECAP: February 2017 Record Warm in 16 U.S. States)

Only parts of the north and central equatorial Pacific Ocean, southwest Canada, Baffin Island and adjacent Baffin Bay, the Middle East, northeast Africa and western Australia were cooler than avearge in February 2017, according to NASA/GISS.

February 2017 marked 379 months since the last colder-than-average month in NASA's database, July 1985.

The last three consecutive years – 2014, 2015 and 2016 – each set warm record for the globe, according to NASA. 

Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com and has been an incurable weather geek since a tornado narrowly missed his childhood home in Wisconsin at age 7. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

MORE: NASA Images of Climate Change


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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