The temperature of the lowest section of the atmosphere hit its highest level on record in February, as estimated by weather satellites.
The planet was 0.83 degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term average, according to Roy Spencer, research scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who worked with John Christy to develop the original analysis of satellite-derived global temperatures.
The February reading is remarkable in that it rose almost 0.3 degrees from the warmest level in January on record, established last month. Incredibly, land areas outside the tropics in the Northern Hemisphere were a “whopping” 1.46 degrees C above average, 0.5 degrees above any previous monthly anomaly, Spencer said.
The record-setting February reading represents an inconvenient data point for those that claim the Earth isn’t warming.
“I’ve always cautioned fellow skeptics that it’s dangerous to claim no warming,” Spencer said in a phone conversation. “There has been warming. The question is how much warming there’s been and how does that compare to what’s expected and what’s predicted.”
February’s record-shattering satellite reading, the highest in nearly 40 years of measurement, joins recent ground-based temperature readings in reaching new heights.
In January, NOAA reported the warmest global monthly temperature anomaly on record in its analysis.
The record warm satellite reading in February follows news that meteorological winter (encompassing December, January and February) was among the warmest on record in many parts of the northern contiguous United States and Alaska. The Weather Channel reported the following cities had their warmest and second-warmest winters on record:
Warmest: Albany, N.Y.; Allentown, Pa.; Barrow, Alaska; Burlington, Vt.; Caribou, Maine; Concord, N.H.; Minot, N.D.; and Providence, R.I.
Second-warmest: Anchorage; Boston; Buffalo; Flint, Mich.; Hartford, Conn.; Medford, Ore.; New York; and Wichita.
Satellite-derived estimates of climate warming since the last 1970s shows a warming trend of roughly 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade. Ground-based estimates are somewhat higher.
In January, the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s news release on the latest temperature trends implied 2016 has a good chance to pass 1998 as the warmest year in the satellite record. “In addition to a major El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event, 2016 has 17 years of warming to raise the base temperature from which the El Niño begins,” it said.
Spencer said the warming observed in the satellite record is due to both human activities and natural causes, but the relative contributions of each is uncertain. His view on this issue is somewhat different from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which have concluded almost all of the recent warming is human-caused.