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 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.

Featured Blogs

Meteorology of Saturday's Colombian Flood Disaster That Killed 254

By Dr. Jeff Masters
April 3, 2017

At least 254 people were killed in the in the city of Mocoa (population 40,000) in southwest Colombia near the border of Ecuador early Saturday, when torrential rains triggered a debris flow on a nearby mountain that surged into the town as a huge wall of water carrying tons of mud and debris. The disaster is the fourth deadliest weather-related disaster in Colombia’s recorded history.

Iconic American Destination Virtually Isolated for Rest of Year

By Christopher C. Burt
March 24, 2017

Half of the village of Big Sur, on the coast of central California, has lost its only access to the north following the demolition of the flood-damaged Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge along State Route 1 (also Rt. 1 or SR 1) on March 19. Although Rt. 1 to the south of Big Sur has reopened to traffic (after mud and rock slides were cleared) it is a long 70-mile journey along the windy but spectacular highway to Cambria, the next town of any significance where supplies can be had. CalTrans (California Department of Transportation) estimates it will take 6-9 months to rebuild a new bridge over the canyon.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.