Climate Change

February set another record for global warmth

Earth set another global temperature record in February. But experts are unsure whether a waning El Niño will be enough to cool temperatures.

People watch the sunset at a park on an unseasonably warm day, Feb. 25, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.
People watch the sunset at a park on an unseasonably warm day, Feb. 25, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Charlie Riedel/AP
SMS

February was the ninth month in a row that was the warmest on record for the respective month of the year, according to global temperature data provided by the European Union's  Copernicus Climate Change Service. The record followed carbon dioxide and methane levels that were the highest ever in the atmosphere. 

The global temperature was about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the 1991-2020 average for the month of February, and about 0.2 degrees warmer than the previous February record.

Although official records only date back to 1850, scientists say the recent period of record warmth is likely the warmest has been in thousands of years. Although earth does undergo climate changes, the type of climate change seen in recent decades is at an accelerated level, they say. 

Climate officials noted El Niño continued to weaken in the equatorial Pacific, but marine air temperatures, in general, remained at an unusually high level.

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The month was particularly warm for most of North America and Europe. 

This warmth was evident in the Great Lakes as the normally harsh winter of the Upper Midwest failed to arrive this year. The warm winter kept ice from forming over much of the Great Lakes. 

In the past, ice covered over half of the Great Lakes at its peak. But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that no more than 20% of the Great Lakes were ice-covered.       

Scientists placed blame on the rise in carbon dioxide and methane gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels reached 419 parts per million in 2023, 2.4 ppm higher than in 2022. There were 1,902 parts per billion of methane gas in 2023, an 11 ppb increase over 2022. 

El Niño conditions are expected to wane this spring, but global temperatures are expected to remain warmer than average.