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Assessing the Global Climate in February 2021

Coldest February for the globe since 2014; significant cool temperature departures across North America and northern Asia

Picture of the Pamukkale thermal waters in Turkey
Courtesy of Pixabay.com

The globally averaged temperature departure from average for February 2021 was the 16th highest for the month of February in the 142-year NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880.

February 2021 Global Significant Climate Events Map

 

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.

February 2021

February 2021 Global Temperature Percentiles Map

 

The February 2021 global surface temperature was 1.17°F (0.65°C) above the 20th-century average of 53.9°F (12.1°C). This was the smallest February temperature departure since 2014 and the 16th highest for February in the 142-year record. 

  • February 2021 marked the 45th consecutive February and the 434th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.
  • The Northern Hemisphere’s February 2021 temperature departure was the 14th highest for February on record at 1.51°F (0.84°C). This was also the smallest February temperature departure for the Northern Hemisphere since 2014.
  • The Southern Hemisphere’s surface temperature departure from average was 0.81°F (0.45°C) above average — the smallest February temperature departure since 2012 and the 19th-warmest February on record. 
  • The most notable warmer-than-average February 2021 temperatures of at least +3.6°F (+2.0°C) were present across eastern Canada, western, central, and southeastern Europe and southern and northeastern Asia. The most notable cool temperature departures from average during February were observed across much of North America, Scandinavia and northern Asia, where temperatures were at least 5.4°F (3.0°C) below average. Other notable cool temperatures were observed across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, Australia and parts of the southern oceans.
  • North America had its coldest February since 1994 and the 20th-coldest February in the regional 112-year record. Oceania had its coldest February since 2012. South America and the Caribbean region had a top-10 warm February.
February 2021 Global Temperature Departures from Average Map

 

Sea Ice and Snow Cover

The February average Arctic sea ice extent of 5.56 million square miles was 351,000 square miles (5.9 percent) below the 1981-2010 average and tied with 2019 as the seventh-smallest February extent in the 43-year record, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) using data from NOAA and NASA. February sea ice extent was near average across most regions in the Arctic.

The Antarctic sea ice extent was the 11th smallest for February since satellite records began in 1979 at 1.09 million square miles or 90,000 square miles (7.8 percent) below the 1981-2010 average. On February 21, the Antarctic reached its annual minimum. This was the Antarctic’s 12th-smallest annual minimum extent on record. According to the NSIDC, below-average sea ice extent was present across the northern Weddell and eastern Ross Seas.

February 2021 Arctic (left) and Antarctic (right) Sea Ice Extent Map
February 2021 Arctic (left) and Antarctic (right) sea ice extent

 

According to data from NOAA and analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during February was slightly above average at 190,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average. The North American snow cover extent was the fourth highest on record, while Eurasia had its 14th-smallest February snow cover extent on record.

December 2020-February 2021

December-to-February 2021 Global Temperature Percentiles Map

 

The seasonal global surface temperature for December 2020-February 2021 was the eighth highest in the 142-year record, with a temperature departure from average of 1.33°F (0.74°C) above the 20th-century average of 53.8°F (12.1°C). This was also the smallest temperature departure since 2014. 

  • The Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere had their smallest December-February temperature departure since 2014 and 2012, respectively. This was also Northern Hemisphere’s eighth-warmest December-February in the 142-year record.
  • 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.
  • During the three-month period, temperature departures of at least 2.7°F (1.5°C) above average were present across the northern and southern parts of the Pacific, eastern Canada, the North Atlantic, northern Africa, southeastern Europe and parts of China. The most notable cooler-than-average temperatures were present across the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, parts of the southern oceans, northern Asia, the southeastern U.S. and Australia, where temperatures were at least 2.7°F (1.5°C) below average.
December-to-February 2021 Global Temperature Departures from Average Map

 

January-February 2021

January-to-February 2021 Global Temperature Percentiles Map

 

The year-to-date global surface temperature was the 11th highest in the 142-year record at 1.30°F (0.72°C) above the 20th-century average of 53.8°F (12.1°C). This was the smallest January-February temperature departure since 2014. 

  • The Northern Hemisphere had its eighth-warmest January-February period since global records began in 1880. The Southern Hemisphere had its 19th-warmest January-February and the smallest temperature departure for the period since 2012.
  • Africa had its third-warmest January-February in the continental 112-year record. However, no other continent had a top-10 warm or cold January-February period. Oceania had its smallest January-February temperature departure since 2012.
  • Warmer-than-average temperatures during the first two months of the year were present across eastern Canada, northern Africa, southern Europe, southern Asia and across parts of the North and South Pacific Ocean, and the North Atlantic Ocean where temperatures were at least 2.7°F (1.5°C) above average. Meanwhile, the most notable cool temperature departures of −2.7°F (−1.5°C) were present across much of North America, Scandinavia, northern Asia, Australia and across the southern oceans as well as the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
  • According to a statistical analysis done by NCEI scientists, the year 2021 is very likely to rank among the 10 warmest years on record.
January-to-February 2021 Global Departures from Average Map

 

For a more complete summary of climate conditions and events, see our February 2021 Global Climate Report.