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Assessing the Global Climate in January 2020

January 2020 was the warmest January on record for the globe

Picture of Montmartre, France
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The globally averaged temperature departure from average over land and ocean surfaces for January 2020 was the highest for the month of January in the 141-year NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880.

This monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

January 2020 Temperature


  • The January 2020 global land and ocean surface temperature was the highest in the 141-year record at 2.05°F (1.14°C) above the 20th century average of 53.6°F (12.0°C). This value surpassed the previous record set in 2016 by only 0.04°F (0.02°C). This was also the fourth highest monthly temperature departure from average in the 1,681-month record. Only March 2016, February 2016 and December 2015 had a greater temperature departure. 

    • January 2020 marked the 44th consecutive January and the 421st consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.

    • January 2016 and 2020 were the only Januaries with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average above 1.8°F (1.0°C). The four warmest Januaries have occurred since 2016; while the 10 warmest Januaries have all occurred since 2002. 

    • The January 2020 global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average was the highest monthly temperature departure without an El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean. March 2017, December 2019, and February 2017 were the other months where the global land and ocean surface temperature was above 1.8°F (1.0°C) without an El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

    • The Northern Hemisphere also had its warmest January on record, with a combined land and ocean surface temperature departure from average of 2.70°F (1.50°C). This value bested the now second warmest January set in 2016 by 0.22°F (0.12°C). 

    • The Southern Hemisphere’s land and ocean surface temperature departure from average was 1.40°F (0.78°C) above average, resulting in its second warmest January on record. Only January 2016 was warmer.

    • The most notable warmer-than-average land temperatures were present across much of Russia and parts of Scandinavia and eastern Canada, where temperatures were 9.0°F (5.0°C) above average or higher. The most notable cool temperature departures from average during January were observed across much of Alaska and parts of western Canada, with temperatures 7.2°F (4.0°C) below average or less.

    • Record-warm January surface temperatures were present across parts of Scandinavia, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the central and western Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and Central and South America. No land or ocean areas had record-cold January temperatures.

    • South America, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean and Hawaiian regions had their second warmest January since regional records began in 1910, while Oceania had its third warmest January on record. 

    • According to a statistical analysis done by NCEI scientists, the year 2020 is very likely to rank among the five warmest years on record.


Sea Ice and Snow Cover


  • The January average Arctic sea ice extent of 5.27 million square miles was 297,000 square miles (5.3 percent) below the 1981–2010 average, tying with 2014 as the eighth smallest January extent in the 42-year record, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA. Baffin Bay had the smallest sea ice extent since January 2011, while the Barents Sea had the largest sea ice extent since January 2015.

  • Antarctic sea ice extent during January was 1.74 million square miles, which is 190,000 square miles (9.8 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This value tied with January 2011 as the 10th smallest January sea ice extent on record. 

  • According to data from NOAA and analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during January was 190,000 square miles below the 1981–2010 average and the 18th smallest January snow cover extent in the 54-year period of record. The North American snow cover extent was near average, while Eurasia had a slightly below-average extent for the month.

For a more complete summary of climate conditions and events, see our January 2020 Global Climate Report.