The month of February broke another heat record for the planet — the latest in a string of broken monthly records that bring the Earth closer to the symbolic 2 degree Celsius temperature hike predicted to spark catastrophic consequences.
February smashed the previous record for the warmest February and even became the warmest month ever compared to average, according to NOAA, which released the data Thursday.
February temperatures over land and ocean averaged a scorching 2.18 F/1.21 C above the 20th century average. With records going back to 1880, that makes 1,646 months of data, and February tops them all. But what’s even more remarkable is that the top three months in terms of heat are the past three, going back to December 2015, and they all top 1 C warmer than the 20th century average.
The planet is rapidly on its way to that 2 degree mark, possibly faster than anyone imagined. In fact, average temperatures over land in February were a mind-boggling 4.16 F/2.31 C above normal, the first time the significant and symbolic 2 degree Celsius bar has been topped.
During the climate talks of COP21, world leaders pledged to make efforts to keep global warming at an ambitious 1.5 C, which is seen as “dangerous climate change that they want to prevent,” according to Imperial College London climate scientist Heather Graven. The fact that these recent monthly deviations are of that scale suggest to Graven that “we’re very near that dangerous level of climate change.”
February also marks the 10th consecutive month that ranks as the hottest one of that particular month in the 135-year record — so for the past 10 months, we’ve had the hottest January on record, the hottest December ever, the hottest November, etc. This means by May we may have completed the 12-month sweep. That’s like a boxer holding all of the championship belts in all of the different weight classes at once!