February 2022 was Earth’s seventh-warmest February since global record-keeping began in 1880, 0.81 degree Celsius (1.46°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, or NCEI, reported March 14. NASA rated February 2022 as tied for fifth-warmest February on record, 1.17 degrees Celsius (2.11°F) above the 1880-1920 period, which is its best estimate for when preindustrial temperatures last occurred. February 2022 was tied for the fifth-warmest February on record according to the Japan Meteorological Agency and was the sixth-warmest on record according to the European Copernicus Climate Change Service. Minor differences in the agencies’ rankings can result from the different ways they treat data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.

Land areas had their 11th-warmest February on record in 2022, with global ocean temperatures the sixth-warmest on record, according to NOAA. South America had its eighth-warmest February on record; Asia, its eighth-warmest; and Europe, its seventh-warmest. Oceania and Africa were above average in temperature, and North America was below average. As discussed by Bob Henson last week, the contiguous U.S. experienced near-average temperatures in February, and the U.S. winter as a whole (December through February) ranked as the 18th-warmest in 127 years of record-keeping.

The year-to-date global surface temperature was the sixth-highest on record, and the year 2022 is over 99% likely to rank among the 10 warmest years on record, NOAA said. If La Niña continues and/or recurs later this year (see below), it will reduce the odds of 2022 setting a global heat record.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for February 2022, the seventh-warmest February for the globe since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-warm February temperatures were observed across parts of the southeastern Atlantic Ocean, southwestern Pacific Ocean and across a small area in the southern Indian Ocean. No areas experienced record cold. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI)

La Niña persists

La Niña conditions persisted during February and are expected to persist through the Northern Hemisphere summer (53% chance during June-August), with a 90% chance of either La Niña or neutral conditions thereafter, NOAA reported in its March monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.

Over the past month, sea surface temperatures in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W) were about 0.8 degree Celsius below average. The range for “weak” La Niña conditions is 0.5-1.0 degree Celsius below average; the range for “moderate” La Niña conditions is 1.0-1.5 degrees Celsius below average.

Figure 2. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Temperatures have ranged from 0.7-1.0 degree Celsius below average since mid-February. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

The forecast from NOAA and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society for the peak portion of the Atlantic hurricane season (August-September-October) is for a 45% chance of La Niña, 45% chance of ENSO-neutral, and a 10% chance of El Niño. If it were to happen, a third consecutive northern winter with La Niña in 2022-23 would be unusual but not unprecedented: Three-year La Niña sequences occurred in 1973-76 and 1998-2001.

Atlantic hurricane seasons during El Niño events tend to be quiet, because of increased vertical wind shear over the Atlantic. With the current forecast calling for only a small chance of an El Niño, a seventh consecutive active Atlantic hurricane season likely will occur in 2022.

The impact of the current La Niña event may be boosted by an intensely negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO. The PDO is an index of sea surface temperatures across the northeast and tropical Pacific Ocean that reflects some of the circulation aspects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The PDO can swing sharply from month to month, but usually it leans positive (warm) or negative (cool) for a few years at a time. Nearly every month since 2017 has seen a negative PDO, and February’s value was the lowest for any February since 1956. When the PDO is negative, La Niña’s impacts are often more pronounced.

Arctic sea ice: 14th-lowest February extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during February 2022 was the 14th-lowest in the 44-year satellite record, and the greatest February extent since 2020, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC. While this is good news, sea ice extent has a large natural variability, and it is unlikely that the long-term decline in Arctic sea ice has halted. In addition, winter ice extent is a poor indicator of what the ice extent will be in summer and fall. By March 14, Arctic sea ice extent had fallen to the fifth-lowest on record for the date (see Tweet by Zack Labe above).

Antarctic sea ice extent in February was the lowest on record; sea ice extent beginning in the second week of February remained below the previous all-time record low for over two weeks.

Notable global heat and cold marks for February 2022

The information below is courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera. Follow him on Twitter: @extremetemps:

– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 44.2°C (111.6°F) at Matam, Senegal, February 23;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -61.9°C (-79.4°F) at Summit, Greenland, February 11;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 45.8°C (114.4°F) at Emu Creek, Australia, February 1, and Hopetun North, Australia, February 11;
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -62.2°C (-80.0°F) at Dome Fuji, Antarctica, February 27;
– Highest 2022 average temperature to date (Jan.-Feb.) in the Southern Hemisphere: 33.5°C (92.3°F) at Roebourne AP, Australia; and
– Highest 2022 average temperature to date (Jan.-Feb.) in the Northern Hemisphere: 30.7°C (87.3°F) at Kenieba, Mali.

Major weather stations in February: 8 all-time heat records, no all-time cold record

Among global stations with a record of at least 40 years, eight set, not just tied, an all-time heat record in February; no stations set an all-time cold record:

Vernadsky (Antarctica) max. 12.7°C, February 7;
Macquarie Island (Australia) max. 17.1°C, February 8;
Westport (New Zealand) max. 29.2°C, February 8;
Greymouth (New Zealand) max. 29.8°C, February 8;
Wanganui (New Zealand) max. 32.7°C, February 10;
Whatawhata (New Zealand) max. 33.0°C, February 10;
Uruguaiana (Brazil) max. 42.9°C, February 27; and
Monte Caseros (Argentina) max. 42.1°C, February 27.

Three all-time national/territorial heat records set or tied in 2022

As of the end of February, three nations or territories had set or tied an all-time reliably measured national heat record:

Paraguay:  45.6°C (114.1°F) at Sombrero Hovy, January 1;
Australia:  50.7°C (123.3°F) at Onslow AP, January 13 (tie); and
Uruguay:  44.0°C (111.2°F) at Florida, January 14 (tie).

Two all-time national/territorial cold records set or tied in 2022

As of the end of February, two nations or territories had set or tied an all-time national cold record:

Montenegro: -33.4°C (-28.1°F) at Kosanica, January 25; and
Myanmar: -6.0°C (-21.2°F) at Hakha, January 29.

Thirteen monthly national/territorial heat records beaten or tied as of the end of February

In addition to the three all-time national/territorial records listed above, 13 nations or territories have set monthly all-time heat records in 2022, for a total of 16 monthly all-time records:

– January (11): Mexico, USA, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Comoros, Mayotte, Maldives, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Montenegro
– February (2): Papua New Guinea, Pakistan

No additional all-time monthly cold records have been set so far in 2022.

Hemispherical and continental temperature records in 2022

– Highest temperature ever recorded in January in North America: 41.7°C (107.1°F) at Gallinas, Mexico, January 1;

– Highest temperature ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere (tie) and world record for highest temperature ever recorded in January: 50.7°C (123.3°F) at Onslow AP, Australia, January 13; and

– Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in South America: 32.2°C (90.0°F) at Pampa del Infierno, Argentina, January 17.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...