The changes in our planet’s climate came into focus again this past winter as February 2024 emerged as the hottest February on record. This latest development continues the trend of unprecedented temperatures, marking the ninth consecutive month of record-breaking warmth, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information

Global Implications

The period from December 2023 to February 2024 has been documented as the warmest for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, underscoring the ongoing climate crisis. This unprecedented warmth during the winter months in the United States marks a new chapter in the 130-year history of climate records, emphasizing the need for immediate attention to our changing climate. 

In February, land and ocean surface temperatures also soared 2.52°F above the 20th-century average, setting the record for the warmest waters during February since the 175-year history of NOAA’s climate record keeping began. Projections now suggest a 99% probability that 2024 will rank among the top five warmest years on record. 

This wave of record-breaking temperatures was not confined to any single continent. Europe, North America, and South America each experienced their warmest February on record, with Africa closely following as it recorded its second-warmest February. 

The climate anomaly extends beyond temperatures as precipitation patterns have shifted dramatically. Regions that are typically covered in snow during winter experienced heavy rainfall instead, contributing to one of the wettest winters on record, especially in the U.S. West. Notably, Los Angeles reported three times its average February rainfall, a stark indicator of the shifts in our climate. 

Why Was This the Hottest February on Record? 

Karin Gleason, chief of the monitoring section at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, noted the particularly rapid warming of the planet’s coldest regions and times of the year, attributing this trend to climate change. “It was quite a jump on the previous record—it wasn’t a photo finish, it was a decisive new record,” said Gleason. 

Following the record warmth of 2023, recent trends underscore the intensifying climate crisis, characterized by severe heatwaves, widespread wildfires, and increasing sea levels, presenting clear evidence of significant environmental change. 

“NASA and NOAA’s global temperature report confirms what billions of people around the world experienced last year; we are facing a climate crisis,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “From extreme heat, to wildfires, to rising sea levels, we can see our Earth is changing. There’s still more work to be done…and NASA will continue to use our vantage point of space to bring critical climate data back down to Earth that is understandable and accessible for all people.” 

The urgency to act against the warming of our planet has never been more critical. “We are facing a climate crisis…our Earth is changing. We must mitigate climate risks and enhance resilience,” said Nelson. 

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