Note: Due to a processing error, the January 2012 Global report originally reported incorrect temperature anomalies for the land-surface components for the globe and each hemisphere. These caused the combined land and ocean surface temperatures to be incorrect as well. This error did not affect the historical rank for the January combined land and ocean temeprature, which remains 19th warmest. However, it did affect the rank of the land-only component. With the corrected data, the land only component is now the 28th warmest on record (rather than 26th warmest, as originally reported). The corrected data are reflected in this report as of 17 February 2012. We regret the error and any issues it may have raised for users.

January 2012 Selected Climate Anomalies and Events MapJanuary 2012 Selected Climate
Anomalies and Events Map

Global Highlights

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for January 2012 was the 19th warmest on record at 12.35°C (54.23°F), which is 0.35°C (0.63°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F). The margin of error associated with this temperature is +/- 0.08°C (0.14°F). This January is the coolest of all months on record since February 2008. However, it also marks the 26th January and 323rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below average temperatures was February 1985.
  • Separately, the global land surface temperature was 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average of 2.8°C (37.0°F), making this the 28th warmest January on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.17°C (0.31°F).
  • The Arctic Oscillation climate pattern played a large role in temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere during January. The positive phase during the first half of the month contributed to well-below average monthly temperatures across Alaska and above-average temperatures across the contiguous United States. The negative phase during the second half of the month contributed to warmth in Canada and also to a cold snap that began during the last week in January across Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa.
  • The January global ocean surface temperature was 0.30°C (0.54°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.5°F), making it the 17th warmest January on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.04°C (0.07°F).

Please Note: The data presented in this report are preliminary. Ranks and anomalies may change as more complete data are received and processed. Effective with the July 2009 State of the Climate Report, NCDC transitioned to the new version (version 3b) of the extended reconstructed sea surface temperature (ERSST) dataset. ERSST.v3b is an improved extended SST reconstruction over version 2. For more information about the differences between ERSST.v3b and ERSST.v2 and to access the most current data, please visit NCDC's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.


Temperature anomalies for January 2012 are shown on the dot maps below. The dot map on the left provides a spatial representation of anomalies calculated from the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) dataset of land surface stations using a 1961–1990 base period. The dot map on the right is a product of a merged land surface and sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly analysis developed by Smith et al. (2008). For the merged land surface and SST analysis, temperature anomalies with respect to the 1971–2000 average for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.


In the atmosphere, 500-millibar height pressure anomalies correlate well with temperatures at the Earth's surface. The average position of the upper-level ridges of high pressure and troughs of low pressure—depicted by positive and negative 500-millibar height anomalies on the January 2012 height and anomaly mapJanuary 2012 map—is generally reflected by areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies at the surface, respectively.


January 2012 was marked by a month of extreme temperatures, particularly across Northern Hemisphere middle and high latitude land areas. Much warmer-than-average temperatures were observed across most of North America, the northern latitudes of Europe and Asia, southern South America, and most of Australia. Cooler-than-average regions included Alaska, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, south central Russia, much of the Middle East, northern India, north Africa, and southwestern Greenland. There was a contrast between temperatures in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. While both were above average, the Southern Hemisphere temperature anomaly was 0.61°C (1.10°F), ranking as the 10th warmest January in the 133-year period of record. The Northern Hemisphere land surface was not as warm by comparison, at 0.44°C (0.79°F) and ranking as the 36th warmest January on record. This difference is indicative of how variable temperatures over land surface can be, even at large hemispheric scales. Averaged across all of the world's land surfaces, the January temperature was 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average, ranking as the 28th warmest January on record. At the national level, as reported by various meteorological agencies:

  • The contiguous United States had its fourth warmest January since records began in 1895. For the first January since 2006, none of the contiguous 48 states reported monthly temperatures below the period-of-record average.

  • The United Kingdom experienced its warmest January since 2008, with the average temperature 1.3°C (2.3°F) above the 1971–2000 average.

  • According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the average maximum temperature across Australia was 0.43°C (0.77°F) below average, making this the coolest January since 2000 and the 13th coolest since national records began in 1950. Meanwhile, the average January 2012 minimum temperature was near normal, at 0.06°C (0.11°F) above average.

  • The average temperature for New Zealand was 0.7°C (1.3°F) below the 1971–2000 average, with records dating back to 1909, according to NIWA.

Global sea surface temperature anomalies declined in January compared with recent months as weak-to-moderate cool La Niña conditions continued to prevail across the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean for the fourth straight month (since October 2011). However, it was notably warmer than average across the north central and southwestern Atlantic Ocean, the central and western Pacific, and the southeastern Indian Ocean. Together, the global sea surface temperature averaged across all oceans around the world was 0.30°C (0.54°F) above the 20th century average, ranking as the 17th warmest January on record. It was also the coolest monthly anomaly since January 2008, also a month in which La Niña was present. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, La Niña conditions are likely to dissipate during spring 2012, with a return to near-average temperatures in that region.

Globally, the monthly temperature across all land and ocean surfaces combined was 0.35°C (0.63°F) above average, making this the 19th warmest January on record. January 2012 was also the coolest of any month on record since February 2008. However, noting that the temperature is still above average, this January also marks the 26th January and 323rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with a below-average global temperature was February 1985.

January Ranks and Records
January Anomaly Rank
(out of 133 years)
°C °F Year(s) °C °F
Land +0.49 ± 0.17 +0.88 ± 0.31 Warmest 28th 2007 +1.79 +3.22
Coolest 106th 1893 -1.94 -3.49
Ocean +0.30 ± 0.04 +0.54 ± 0.07 Warmest 17th 1998 +0.56 +1.01
Coolest 117th 1904 -0.46 -0.83
Land and Ocean +0.35 ± 0.08 +0.63 ± 0.14 Warmest 19th 2007 +0.84 +1.51
Coolest 115th 1893 -0.73 -1.31
Ties: 1993, 1997
Northern Hemisphere
Land +0.44 ± 0.24 +0.79 ± 0.43 Warmest 36th 2007 +2.24 +4.03
Coolest 98th 1893 -2.49 -4.48
Ocean +0.33 ± 0.06 +0.59 ± 0.11 Warmest 11th 1998, 2010 +0.53 +0.95
Coolest 123rd 1904 -0.49 -0.88
Ties: 1988, 2006
Land and Ocean +0.37 ± 0.12 +0.67 ± 0.22 Warmest 23rd 2007 +1.18 +2.12
Coolest 111th 1893 -1.23 -2.21
Ties: 2006
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.61 ± 0.12 +1.10 ± 0.22 Warmest 10th 2010 +0.91 +1.64
Coolest 124th 1904 -0.80 -1.44
Ties: 2007, 2011
Ocean +0.29 ± 0.04 +0.52 ± 0.07 Warmest 27th 1998 +0.58 +1.04
Coolest 107th 1911 -0.48 -0.86
Ties: 1990, 2008
Land and Ocean +0.34 ± 0.06 +0.61 ± 0.11 Warmest 20th 1998 +0.63 +1.13
Coolest 114th 1911 -0.49 -0.88
Ties: 1991, 1992, 1993

The most current data may be accessed via the Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.


The maps below represent anomaly values based on the GHCN dataset of land surface stations using a base period of 1961–1990.

Seasonal monsoonal rains brought heavier-than-average rainfall to southwestern and southeastern Australia. Two back-to-back tropical cyclones brought heavy rain to Mozambique in southeastern Africa, while Cyclone Iggy brought copious rainfall to Indonesia and Bali. Heavy rain also fell over the southern United States, but was not enough to alleviate one of the region's most severe droughts on record. Precipitation was also much above average in South Asia, part of eastern Russia, and southwestern Greenland. Much drier-than-average conditions were observed across northern Canada, the north central United States, eastern Brazil, central and southern Chile, and northern Sweden. The following information was reported by various national meteorological agencies:

  • Spain experienced its sixth driest January in the past 50 years. Average rainfall across the country was 21 mm (0.83 inch), which is 70 percent below average for the month.

  • Conversely, it was the sixth wettest January in Germany since national records began in 1881. Average precipitation was 105.1 mm (4.14 inches), which is 72.8 percent above the monthly average, according to Germany's national meteorological agency.

  • Wetness was prevalent on both the east and west coasts of Australia. The state of Western Australia had its 11th wettest January on record. In eastern Australia, New South Wales experienced its highest January rainfall since 1996.

Additional details on flooding and drought can be found on the January 2012 Global Hazards page.


Peterson, T.C. and R.S. Vose, 1997: An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network Database. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 78, 2837-2849.

Quayle, R.G., T.C. Peterson, A.N. Basist, and C. S. Godfrey, 1999: An operational near-real-time global temperature index. Geophys. Res. Lett., 26, 333-335.

Smith, T.M. and R.W. Reynolds (2005), A global merged land air and sea surface temperature reconstruction based on historical observations (1880-1997), J. Clim., 18, 2021-2036.

Smith et al (2008), Improvements to NOAA's Historical Merged Land-Ocean Surface Temperature Analysis (1880-2006), J. Climate., 21, 2283-2293.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Climate Report for January 2012, published online February 2012, retrieved on September 28, 2021 from