Above-average February temperatures topple over 1,000 records in U.S. alone by Adriana Navarro•After delivering waves of springlike temperatures across the globe and even toppling a few daily highs, February 2020 ranked globally as the second warmest on record, which date back to 1880.The month’s global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average measured 1.17 degrees Celsius (2.11 F) above the 20th century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Report. This falls less than a tenth of a degree from February 2016’s departure of 1.26 degrees Celsius (2.27 F), which was the warmest recorded February on record.
In Fahrenheit, the difference falls at 0.16 of a degree. In 2019, the average fell at 0.86 degrees Celsius above average (1.55 F).
This was the 44th consecutive February and 422nd consecutive month with temperatures nominally above the 20th century average, according to NOAA.
|February average global land and ocean temperature departures from average from 1880 to 2020. (Image/NOAA)|
„The 10 warmest Februarys on record globally have all occurred since 1998,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
Unlike during 2016, this year’s February did not get a boost in temperatures from El Niño — a routine climate pattern when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean rise to above-normal levels for an extended period of time. The last February that wasn’t during an El Niño year was in 2018, when the global land and ocean surface temperatures only reached 0.77 degrees Celsius above average.
For the contiguous U.S., this February was ranked among the warmest one-third of the 126-year period of record. There were at least 1,438 daily record daily high temperature records across the nation during February 2020, according to NOAA.
„In terms of the Northern Hemisphere winter, December through February, this past winter was the second-warmest on record behind 2016,” Anderson said. „This was the warmest winter on record for France, where records go back to 1900. This was also the second-warmest summer on record for Australia.”
Antarctica even set an all-time high record when a weather station recorded the highest recorded temperature on the continent, 65 degrees Fahrenheit, near the beginning of the month.
|Although February 2020 wasn’t the warmest globally, it still reached the warmest on record for a few nations. (Image/NOAA)|
Much of Asia and the Caribbean region also had their warmest February, according to Anderson. This was also the driest February on record for Spain.
On the other end of the spectrum, February 2020 was the wettest on record for the United Kingdom, recording 209.1 mm of rain (8.23 inches), or about 237 percent of normal after enduring storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge.
There also some corners of the world that did experience abnormally low temperatures this winter.
„It was not warm everywhere,” Anderson said. „Alaska, northern Canada and far-eastern Russia were abnormally cold in February due mostly to the fact that the polar vortex, which was very strong, basically sat over the far-northern latitudes through the month, leading to persistent cold and significant sea ice growth.”
Double-edged sword of stormy weather targets California before official start of spring by Courtney Spamer•The final days of winter will bring more stormy weather across much of California.A storm started off the weekend along the northern California coast, helping to produce snow and blizzard conditions across the Cascades and northern Rockies.The storm will shift south along the California coast early next week, bringing precipitation to central and southern California.”Even with the center of the storm staying offshore for the most part, multiple rounds of rainfall and mountain snow are expected across Nevada and California through Tuesday night,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Edwards.Overall, rainfall amounts across the region will range from 0.25-0.75 of an inch, with some locations hit by more than a single heavy downpour could end up with rainfall totals of an inch or two.
„In areas hit by multiple heavier rounds, localized flooding will be a concern, especially in low-lying areas. Mudslides will also be a concern in the higher terrain,” Edwards said.Much of the higher terrain will also have precipitation falling as snow rather than rain.Snow will start falling in the mountains of northern California early in the week, shifting down the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the week progresses.Snow could make travel more difficult in these areas, including along I-80 through Donner Pass. The fresh snow could increase the avalanche risk in the region.
All of that aside, snow will be welcome for ski resorts in the Sierras that have so far experienced below-normal snow amounts this season.Through Tuesday, as much as 3-5 feet of snow could fall in the highest terrain of the Sierra Nevada’s helping to make up the deficit.At the end of February, a survey conducted by the Department of Water Resources at the Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada of California revealed a mere 29 inches of snow depth with a water equivalent of 11.5 inches. This was less than 50% of average for the season so far.
|A small gathering of media attend the California Department of Water Resources third snow survey of the 2020 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The survey site is approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken Feb. 27, 2020. (Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources)|
Freezing levels do not appear like they will dip down enough over Southern California for snow to fall on Cajon and Tejon passes into the latter half of the week.
The overall drier-than-normal conditions in California and much of the Southwest have brought concerns about how this could affect the coming spring and summer.
The rainy season for California typically begins in October and runs through late-March, which is when the state receives most of its rain for the year.
„California got all the rain early in the rainy season, and since then it has been virtually nothing through the first week of March,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.
As a result, despite the recent wet weather in Southern California, the majority of the state was abnormally dry or in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s update on March 12.
AccuWeather Meteorologists are hoping for a „Miracle March” or April to help prevent an early and long-enduring wildfire season.
The storm will likely continue to move east and impact more of the country from the middle of the week on.
By Wednesday afternoon, periods of rain and snow will spread across the Four Corners region and into the southern Plains.
Even as the system moves east, flooding and washouts will be a concern across the area.
„This same system may be responsible for igniting severe weather across the center of the country late next week,” added Edwards.
If enough cool air is pulled down behind the storm as it moves into the Plains, a swath of snow will be possible from the northern Rockies to the Upper Midwest.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
Warmest winter on record gives way to extra-early signs of spring
If this winter season was not very wintery where you live, you’re certainly not alone — that was the experience for most of the people in the Northern Hemisphere. According to NOAA, the winter of 2019-2020 was the warmest on record across all continents north of the equator.
With an average temperature 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, this winter ranks first among the warmest winters on land in the Northern Hemisphere, beating the very mild winter of 2015-2016.
Up until now the 2015-2016 winter was the clear winner for warmth, but now it must split that distinction with this season. When you factor in the ocean surface in addition to land temperatures, 2015-2016 still holds the record. That’s because that winter, the Earth experienced a super El Niño, overheating the surface waters of the equatorial Pacific and radiating heat into the atmosphere. It’s years like that where record warmth is expected. But there was no El Niño to be found this winter, and yet, at least over land, it impressively still managed to exceed a super El Niño year.
As a result of the unusually warm weather this winter, seasonal rhythms have been thrown off kilter. As CBS News reported earlier this week, in places from Moscow to the U.S. bears have been seen coming out of hibernation early. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo says its native black bears emerged in early March — almost a month earlier than usual.
In much of the eastern United States, spring „leaf out” — the season’s first blossoming of several plant species — has sprung more than 20 days early. In parts of the Southeast, this year’s spring bloom is the earliest in the 39-year record, according to the National Phenology Network, an organization that studies the impact of climate on nature’s cycles.
CBS News asked Dr. Theresa Crimmins, director of the USA National Phenology Network, if such a widespread early arrival of spring is unusual. „Yes,” she replied, „this year stands out, because so much of the country is showing such an early spring. Huge swaths of the Southeast have had the start of spring arrive 2-3 weeks and more early.”
And the reason behind it? „Climate change is certainly at play — there is a clear trend toward an earlier start to spring,” Crimmins said.
A 2015 study led by Cornell University’s Dr. Toby Ault found a regional trend in earlier „leaf out,” indicated by the orange colors in the map below, by up to 1.6 days per decade due to a warming climate on top of natural fluctuations.
Ault et. al,, 2015
With recent temperatures reaching in the low 70s — 25 degrees above normal — flowers are starting to appear in New York’s Central Park weeks early.
Trees blooming in New York City’s Central Park on an unseasonably warm day in March 2020. Jeff Berardelli
The early spring is getting a boost from a winter with very little cold and snow in most of the country and around the world. In the U.S., the winter was nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, ranking as 6th warmest since the late 1800s. Washington D.C.’s snowfall was measly — less than an inch — and Boston registered its second-lowest snow total on record.
In the image below, the color brown indicates places that have seen less snow than normal.
Winter of 2019-20 (DJF) was not much of a winter as far as snowfall across the majority of the CONUS. There were some exceptions, but the rule was well below normal snowfall in many areas. pic.twitter.com/fKUqdJ1pGM
— Greg Carbin (@GCarbin) March 12, 2020
The warmth has been even more astonishing in Europe. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, Europe just experienced its warmest winter on record by far — 6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal — shattering the old record by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
📢February #temperature highlights from #Copernicus #C3S:🌡️Last month was the second warmest February in our record, globally and for Europe🌡️This winter was by far the warmest on record for Europe, 1.4°C higher than next warmest winterMore detail➡️https://t.co/MnuywtxElS pic.twitter.com/WIcnOxE1k5
— Copernicus ECMWF (@CopernicusECMWF) March 4, 2020
The warmth caused difficulties for reindeer herding in northern Sweden, the failure of the ice-wine harvest in Germany, and forced organizers to import snow for sporting events in Sweden and Russia. Parts of Russia near Moscow experienced a winter of 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
When viewed over a longer period of time, Europe’s record warm winter stands out even more starkly. Compared to normal conditions at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (1850-1900), before human-caused greenhouse gases started to warm the planet, this winter was a remarkable 8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal across the whole continent.
Copernicus Climate Change Service
Some of the warmer weather in the mid-latitudes of the U.S. and Europe can be explained by abnormally strong polar vortex winds in the Arctic, which lassoed cold air, trapping it far north. These sporadic strong polar vortex patterns are most likely part of a natural cycle.
However, the broad scale and intensity of overall warmth across the Northern Hemisphere cannot be explained without climate change. Each year more signs emerge that human-caused climate change is playing a bigger role. A peer-reviewed paper published March 10 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows the climate-warming signal is becoming more apparent, with „many regions already experiencing a climate which would be ‘unknown’ by late 19th century standards.”
„The speed of climate change is accelerating” says Dr. Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and founder of the Pacific Institute, a sustainability nonprofit in Oakland, California.
„Sadly, it is not a surprise to most climate scientists. We’ve seen this coming for literally decades and now it’s upon us,” said Gleick, „I expect there will be new, hotter temperature records broken over and over again in the future along with increasingly severe droughts and floods, rising sea levels, and worsening fire risks. There’s no ‘normal’ anymore. And still our politicians dither. It’s sad and disturbing to me.”