Global Climate Report - February 2021


February 2021 Selected Climate Anomalies and Events Map

Introduction

Temperature anomalies and percentiles are shown on the gridded maps below. The anomaly map on the left is a product of a merged land surface temperature (Global Historical Climatology Network, GHCN) and sea surface temperature (ERSST version 5) anomaly analysis. Temperature anomalies for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCEI's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page. The percentile map on the right provides additional information by placing the temperature anomaly observed for a specific place and time period into historical perspective, showing how the most current month, season or year compares with the past.


Temperature

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 February 2021 and December– February 2021 maps—is generally reflected by areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies at the surface, respectively.

Monthly Temperature: February 2021

During the month, La Niña continued to be present across the tropical Pacific Ocean during February, helping dampen the global temperatures. Meanwhile, a strong negative Arctic Oscillation (AO) was also present during the first half of the month. Similar to the ENSO affecting global temperatures, the AO can influence weather patterns across the mid-latitudes. In a negative AO phase, the jet stream weakens and meanders, creating larger troughs and ridges. This allows really cold Arctic air to reach the mid-latitudes. Across the U.S., a trough over the central U.S. combined with a ridge over northern Canada to produce a Rex block, which is a blocking pattern that disrupts the jet stream and leads to more prolonged weather patterns. The AO on February 10–11 was -5.3, which essentially ties February 5, 1978 and February 13, 1969 for the lowest February value on record. They were also among the lowest 35 values for any day of the year (>99.9 percentile). By February 26, it had rebounded to +2.7 (97th percentile). The February mean AO was -1.2.

February 2021 was characterized by colder-than-average temperatures across much of North America and northern Asia, where temperatures were at least 3.0°C (5.4°F) below average. Other areas with below-average temperatures included much of the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, Australia, southern Africa, southern South America, and parts of the southern oceans. North America, as a whole, had its coldest February since 1994 and the 20th coldest February in the regional 112-year record. Similarly, the contiguous U.S. had its coldest February since 1989. For additional climate information on the U.S., please visit the national climate report. Oceania had its coldest February since 2012.

Meanwhile, the most notable warm temperature departures occurred across eastern Canada, southern Europe, as well as southern and northeastern Asia, where temperatures were at least 2.0°C (3.6°F) above average. Record-warm February temperatures were limited to parts of the Mediterranean Sea, the Black and Caspian seas, as well as parts of southern Asia, and across small parts of South America, the North and South Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. As a whole, about 4.75% of the world's surface had a record-warm February temperature. This was the sixth highest February percentage since records began in 1951. However, no land or ocean areas had a record-cold February temperature.

Regionally, South America and the Caribbean region had a top-10 warm February. While Asia's cold and warm temperatures resulted in its 12th warmest February on record.

Averaged as a whole, the February 2021 global land and ocean surface temperature was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average—the smallest February temperature departure since 2014. However, compared to all Februaries in the 142-year record, this was the 16th warmest February on record. February 2021 also marked the 45th consecutive February and the 434th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.

Global Land and Ocean Temperature Anomalies for February

The global land-only surface temperature of +0.79°C (+1.42°F) was also the smallest February temperature departure since 2014 and the 21st warmest since global records began in 1880. Meanwhile, the global oceans had its ninth warmest February on record with a temperature departure of +0.53°C (+0.95°F).

February Ranks and Records
February Anomaly Rank
(out of 142 years)
Records
°C °F Year(s) °C °F
Global
Land +0.93 ± 0.13 +1.67 ± 0.23 Warmest 20th 2016 +2.42 +4.36
Coolest 123rd 1893 -1.71 -3.08
Ocean +0.54 ± 0.15 +0.97 ± 0.27 Warmest 9th 2016 +0.84 +1.51
Coolest 134th 1904 -0.54 -0.97
Land and Ocean +0.65 ± 0.15 +1.17 ± 0.27 Warmest 16th 2016 +1.26 +2.27
Coolest 127th 1893, 1905 -0.64 -1.15
Northern Hemisphere
Land +1.10 ± 0.11 +1.98 ± 0.20 Warmest 22nd 2016 +2.80 +5.04
Coolest 121st 1893 -2.00 -3.60
Ocean +0.69 ± 0.14 +1.24 ± 0.25 Warmest 7th 2016 +0.95 +1.71
Coolest 136th 1904 -0.60 -1.08
Land and Ocean +0.84 ± 0.13 +1.51 ± 0.23 Warmest 14th 2016 +1.65 +2.97
Coolest 129th 1893 -1.02 -1.84
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.51 ± 0.14 +0.92 ± 0.25 Warmest 24th 2016 +1.46 +2.63
Coolest 119th 1917 -1.05 -1.89
Ties: 2014
Ocean +0.44 ± 0.14 +0.79 ± 0.25 Warmest 18th 2016 +0.77 +1.39
Coolest 125th 1911 -0.52 -0.94
Ties: 1980, 2005
Land and Ocean +0.45 ± 0.14 +0.81 ± 0.25 Warmest 19th 2016 +0.87 +1.57
Coolest 124th 1917 -0.61 -1.10

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

Select national information is highlighted below. Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data:

  • Spain's national temperature for February 2021 was 9.5°C (49.1°F) or 2.5°C (4.5°F) above the 1981–2010 average. This was Spain's third warmest February since national records began in 1961. Minimum temperatures across Spain were unusually warm, resulting in a national average temperature departure of +3.1°C (+5.6°F)–the highest for February.
  • Cold temperatures affected parts of the United Kingdom during the first half of the month. On February 11, minimum temperatures were below freezing. Braemar (Aberdeenshire) had a minimum temperature of -23.0°C (-9.4°F)—the United Kingdom's lowest temperature observed since 1995.
  • Netherlands set a new record of five consecutive mild days (maximum temperature of 15.0°C [59.0°F] or higher) during the month of February. Of note, De Bilt had a maximum temperature of 18.7°C (65.7°F) on February 24—the second highest maximum temperature recorded in February for De Bilt. This value was only 0.2°C (0.4°F) shy of tying the highest maximum temperature record set on 26 February 2019.
  • A cold wave affected parts of Libya during February 15–16. According to the World Meteorological Organization, maximum temperatures ranged between 5.0°–11°C (41.0°–51.8°F) and minimum temperatures were close to 0°C (32°F).
  • The Kingdom of Bahrain had a mean temperature of 19.7°C (67.5°F) was 1.3°C (2.3°F) above average and tied with 1960 as the fourth highest for February since 1902.
  • During the last two weeks of February, a warm spell affected East Asia with several locations experiencing new maximum temperature records. According to reports, Beijing, the capital of the Republic of China had a maximum temperature of 20.8°C (69.4°F) on February 20, 2021, which was the highest maximum temperature recorded in February. However, that record only lasted one day since the record was yet again broken the next day when temperatures soared to 25.6°C (78.1°F). This was also the earliest a maximum temperature of 25.0°C (77.0°F) was set in Beijing. Climatologically, Beijing's average maximum temperature in February is 4.0°C (39.2°F). Korea also set a new national February temperature when the city of Pohang had a maximum temperature of 24.9°C (76.8°F). This was 0.4°C (0.7°F) higher than the previous record set in 2004.
  • Hong Kong, China had warmer-than-average conditions during February 2021. The monthly mean temperature of 19.8°C (67.6°F) was 3.0°C (5.4°F) above the 1981–2010 average and the third highest for February on record.

Seasonal Temperature: December 2020–February 2021

The December–February period is defined as the Northern Hemisphere's meteorological winter and the Southern Hemisphere's meteorological summer.

The seasonal global land and ocean surface temperature for December 2020–February 2021 was the eighth highest in the 142-year record, with a temperature departure from average of 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average. This was also the smallest temperature departure since 2014. This was also the 45th consecutive December–February period with temperatures, at least nominally, above average.

Global Land and Ocean Temperature Anomalies for December-February

During the three-month season, much of the globe had above-average temperatures. The most notable warm temperature departures during December–February were present across eastern Canada, and its neighboring North Atlantic Ocean, southeastern Europe, northern Africa, and southern Asia, where temperature departures were at least +1.5°C (+2.7°F). Record-warm December–February temperatures were observed in small areas across the North, Western, and South Pacific Ocean as well as parts of eastern Canada, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. Meanwhile, the most notable cooler-than-average temperatures were present across the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, parts of the southern oceans, northern Asia, and Australia, where temperatures were at least 1.5°C (2.7°F) below average. However, no land or ocean areas had record-cold December–February temperatures.

December 2020-February 2021 was the second-warmest such period for Africa and the ninth warmest for Europe. Meanwhile, Oceania had its smallest temperature departure since 2012 and Asia since 2013.

December–February Ranks and Records
December–February Anomaly Rank
(out of 142 years)
Records
°C °F Year(s) °C °F
Global
Land +1.20 ± 0.16 +2.16 ± 0.29 Warmest 11th 2020 +2.04 +3.67
Coolest 132nd 1893 -1.51 -2.72
Ocean +0.57 ± 0.16 +1.03 ± 0.29 Warmest 8th 2016 +0.87 +1.57
Coolest 135th 1904, 1911 -0.48 -0.86
Ties: 1998
Land and Ocean +0.74 ± 0.17 +1.33 ± 0.31 Warmest 8th 2016 +1.18 +2.12
Coolest 135th 1893 -0.61 -1.10
Northern Hemisphere
Land +1.42 ± 0.19 +2.56 ± 0.34 Warmest 10th 2020 +2.34 +4.21
Coolest 133rd 1893 -1.82 -3.28
Ocean +0.77 ± 0.15 +1.39 ± 0.27 Warmest 6th 2016 +1.02 +1.84
Coolest 137th 1904 -0.51 -0.92
Land and Ocean +1.02 ± 0.17 +1.84 ± 0.31 Warmest 8th 2016 +1.50 +2.70
Coolest 135th 1893 -1.01 -1.82
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.63 ± 0.13 +1.13 ± 0.23 Warmest 19th 2016 +1.37 +2.47
Coolest 124th 1904 -0.80 -1.44
Ocean +0.43 ± 0.16 +0.77 ± 0.29 Warmest 20th 2016 +0.76 +1.37
Coolest 123rd 1911 -0.50 -0.90
Ties: 1980
Land and Ocean +0.46 ± 0.16 +0.83 ± 0.29 Warmest 19th 2016 +0.86 +1.55
Coolest 124th 1917 -0.54 -0.97
Ties: 1973, 2009

Year-to-date Temperature: January–February 2021

Global Land and Ocean Temperature Anomalies for January-February

The global surface temperature for January–February 2021 was the 11th warmest at 0.72°C (1.30°F) above the 20th century average. The global land-only temperature was the 12th highest on record, while the global ocean-only temperature was the eighth highest in the 142-year record.

The January–February 2021 spatial pattern of temperature anomalies was quite similar to February 2021, with the most notable cool temperature departures across much of North America, Scandinavia, northern Asia, the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, Australia, and across the southern oceans. Meanwhile, the most notable warm temperature anomalies were present across eastern Canada, northern Africa, southeastern Europe, southern Asia, and across parts of the North and South Pacific Ocean. Record-warm January–February temperatures were observed across parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Mediterranean and Black seas, and across parts of southern Asia. However, no land or ocean areas had a record-cold January–February temperature.

According to NCEI's Regional Analysis, Africa had its third warmest January–February in the 112-year record. However, no other continent had a top-10 warm or cold January–February period. Oceania had its smallest such period since 2012.

The Northern Hemisphere had its eigth warmest January–February on record, while the Southern Hemisphere had its 19th warmest and the smallest temperature departure since 2012.

January–February Ranks and Records
January–February Anomaly Rank
(out of 142 years)
Records
°C °F Year(s) °C °F
Global
Land +1.16 ± 0.18 +2.09 ± 0.32 Warmest 12th 2020 +2.17 +3.91
Coolest 131st 1893 -1.86 -3.35
Ocean +0.56 ± 0.15 +1.01 ± 0.27 Warmest 8th 2016 +0.88 +1.58
Coolest 135th 1904 -0.52 -0.94
Ties: 1998
Land and Ocean +0.72 ± 0.17 +1.30 ± 0.31 Warmest 11th 2016 +1.19 +2.14
Coolest 132nd 1893 -0.69 -1.24
Northern Hemisphere
Land +1.39 ± 0.22 +2.50 ± 0.40 Warmest 10th 2020 +2.57 +4.63
Coolest 133rd 1893 -2.27 -4.09
Ocean +0.73 ± 0.15 +1.31 ± 0.27 Warmest 6th 2016 +1.02 +1.84
Coolest 137th 1904 -0.56 -1.01
Land and Ocean +0.98 ± 0.17 +1.76 ± 0.31 Warmest 8th 2020 +1.54 +2.77
Coolest 135th 1893 -1.18 -2.12
Ties: 2018
Southern Hemisphere
Land +0.56 ± 0.13 +1.01 ± 0.23 Warmest 22nd 2016 +1.36 +2.45
Coolest 121st 1918 -0.90 -1.62
Ocean +0.44 ± 0.15 +0.79 ± 0.27 Warmest 19th 2016 +0.78 +1.40
Coolest 124th 1917 -0.54 -0.97
Land and Ocean +0.46 ± 0.15 +0.83 ± 0.27 Warmest 19th 2016 +0.87 +1.57
Coolest 124th 1917 -0.59 -1.06

Precipitation

February Precipitation

The maps shown above represent precipitation percent of normal (left, using a base period of 1961–1990) and precipitation percentiles (right, using the period of record) based on the GHCN dataset of land surface stations. As is typical, precipitation anomalies during February 2021 varied significantly around the world. February 2021 precipitation was generally drier than normal across parts of the western, southern and northern contiguous U.S, Mexico, southern South America, southern Europe, southern Asia and across parts of southeastern Australia. Wetter-than-average conditions were present across parts of northeastern and eastern contiguous U.S., western and northern Europe, much of Asia, western and eastern Australia.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

  • Heavy rain in southwestern Peru during mid-February prompted devastating floods that affected about 15,000 people, damaged thousands of homes and several schools and health facilities, and about 3,000 hectares of crops were damaged. According to Floodlist, Puerto Maldonado in the Madre de Dios region had 150.8 mm (5.9 inches) in 24-hours on February 19, 2021.
  • Athens, Greece had one of its worst snowfalls during February 15–16, 2020. According to reports, the city had 20–25 cm (7.9–9.8 inches) of snow.

December–February Precipitation

December–February precipitation was generally drier than normal across parts of much of the western half of the contiguous U.S., Mexico, southern South America, northern Africa, and southern Asia. Wetter-than-normal conditions were notable across the eastern contiguous U.S., northern South America, Europe, northern and eastern Asia, and Australia.

Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP)

The following analysis is based upon the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) Interim Climate Data Record. It is provided courtesy of the GPCP Principal Investigator team at the University of Maryland.

The Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) monthly data set is a long-term (1979-present) analysis (Adler et al., 2018) using a combination of satellite and gauge information. An interim GPCP analysis completed within ~10 days of the end of the month allows its use in climate monitoring.

At the end of meteorological Northern Hemisphere winter and Southern Hemisphere summer the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) precipitation features sit approximately on the Equator in the Atlantic and Pacific in February, but further south in the Indian Ocean as seen in Fig. 1 (top panel). Over land the belt of intense rainfall is also further south over Africa, northern Australia and South America. Further poleward the mid-latitude ocean features in the Northern Hemisphere extend toward the east-northeast from the Asian and North America coasts to and into the continents on the other side of their respective oceans. In the Southern Hemisphere the mean precipitation circles the globe at 60°S, nearly unbroken.

The precipitation anomalies (Fig. 1, bottom panel) for February in the tropics are dominated again by La Niña, although there was some indication that this ENSO phenomenon might be weakening as forecast to occur over the next few months. The major negative anomaly is evident in the central Pacific along the Equator, as typical in La Niña, as is the general positive anomaly generally in the western Pacific and over parts of the Maritime Continent. Other features such as the excess rainfall in northern South America and in southern Africa are also typical with La Niña. Below we will summarize the la Niña effect for the recent three-month (Dec–Feb) period.

For February, the La Niña also continued to contribute to the drought conditions in the southwest U.S. California and Arizona were especially dry, with the middle Atlantic states tending toward wet conditions. However, Washington state and further north were hit with atmospheric rivers producing copious rain and snowfall there. Cold conditions in the south-central part of the U.S., including the big freeze in Texas, resulted in generally dry and below normal precipitation there. The La Niña circulation regime also helped provide conditions for heavy rainfall and floods associated with tropical cyclones in the South Indian Ocean, southern Africa, the Mozambique channel and Madagascar, the Philippine Islands and northeast Australia. Although usually relatively dry this time of year, northern Vietnam and southern China had flooding associated with an event that may have been a tropical cyclone system transitioning into a mid-latitude storm and showing up in the monthly anomaly pattern.

The mean precipitation pattern for the season (December–February) is shown in the top panel of Fig. 2, with the typical key features and general locations. The precipitation anomaly for the season is the middle panel and a La Niña climatological composite using multiple years during the 1979–2019 period is shown in the bottom panel. The three-month anomaly for this past season has a definite positive spatial correlation with the composite, especially in the tropics, indicating the importance of ENSO and the associated SST anomalies on forcing precipitation patterns. For the past three months the Niño 3.4 index (an SST anomaly in a central-east Pacific Ocean area along the Equator) has been a steady -1K, indicating moderate La Niña conditions. Key regional agreements between the composite and this season's anomalies include the close-in central Pacific (negative) and the western Pacific and the Maritime Continent (positive) regions, the positive-negative southwestward shift in the SPCZ, northern South America (positive), southern Africa (positive) and the Atlantic ITCZ (positive). Australia's composite is mostly positive, while the actual last three months is mor mixed. Further north both the composite and the recent anomalies extending from Hawaii to the U.S. west coast show precipitation deficits and these features extend into the southern tier of U.S. states and Mexico. Even the North Atlantic and North Central Pacific have general agreement.

The current La Niña is forecast to weaken over the next few months and we will monitor and describe the resulting changes.

Background discussion of long-term means, variations and trends of global precipitation can be found in Adler et al. (2017).

References

  • Menne, M. J., C. N. Williams, B.E. Gleason, J. J Rennie, and J. H. Lawrimore, 2018: The Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly Temperature Dataset, Version 4. J. Climate, in press. https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0094.1.
  • Huang, B., Peter W. Thorne, et. al, 2017: Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature version 5 (ERSSTv5), Upgrades, validations, and intercomparisons. J. Climate, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0836.1
  • Peterson, T.C. and R.S. Vose, 1997: An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network Database. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 78, 2837-2849.
  • Huang, B., V.F. Banzon, E. Freeman, J. Lawrimore, W. Liu, T.C. Peterson, T.M. Smith, P.W. Thorne, S.D. Woodruff, and H-M. Zhang, 2016: Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature Version 4 (ERSST.v4). Part I: Upgrades and Intercomparisons. J. Climate, 28, 911-930.
  • Adler, R., G. Gu, M. Sapiano, J. Wang, G. Huffman 2017. Global Precipitation: Means, Variations and Trends During the Satellite Era (1979-2014). Surveys in Geophysics 38: 679-699, doi:10.1007/s10712-017-9416-4
  • Adler, R., M. Sapiano, G. Huffman, J. Wang, G. Gu, D. Bolvin, L. Chiu, U. Schneider, A. Becker, E. Nelkin, P. Xie, R. Ferraro, D. Shin, 2018. The Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) Monthly Analysis (New Version 2.3) and a Review of 2017 Global Precipitation. Atmosphere. 9(4), 138; doi:10.3390/atmos9040138

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Climate Report for February 2021, published online March 2021, retrieved on April 18, 2021 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/202102.

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