The 40th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average has just ended, with another record.
February of 2017 has been confirmed as the second-warmest February on record according to NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI).
This has been confirmed by NASA which uses slightly different criteria.
Also according to NOAA, February was the fourth-warmest month ever recorded in a database which stretches back to 1880.
The globally averaged temperature in February was 1.10 degrees Celsius above the long-term average. Last February was slightly warmer at 1.32 C above average.
For an explanation, look no further than the fact that global ocean temperatures were the second-highest ever recorded in February.
With January being the tenth-warmest month in NOAA’s database and February the fourth, there is a chance that 2017 could go on to be the fourth consecutive warmest year on record. For this to happen, an El Nino would probably need to develop later in the year.
This phenomenon, which results in a warming of the surface waters of the eastern Pacific, usually occurs every two to seven years. The last major El Nino of 2015/16 was a major contributor to 2016 being the warmest year on record.
There were hints of a weak La Nina during the latter part of 2016, but that was not sustained. Instead, quite remarkably, there was been a further warming of eastern Pacific Ocean surface waters, by up to 6 C.
In itself, this does not meet the criteria required for an El Nino, but it has certainly played a part in the recent flooding rains to hit Peru, and it may develop into a full-blown El Nino later in the year.
If this were to occur, there would be every possibility of 2017 being yet another record-breaker, and continuing a remarkable sequence: since 1880, the 12 warmest years on record have occurred after 1998.