The heat goes on
The spike in February temperature — a whopping 2.18 degrees above average — was "unprecedented," said Michael Mann, a Penn State meteorologist, in an e-mail to USA TODAY. He said that at least briefly, we have now already crossed a 'dangerous' level of warmth, in comparison to global temperatures before the industrial era, which began in the mid-1800s.
World Wildlife Fund vice president Lou Leonard said that “only two months after world governments agreed in Paris to limit planetary warming to no more than 1.5 C (above pre-industrial temperature levels), monthly average temperatures crossed that threshold for the first time in February. Now in March, another disturbing record falls."
The planet also saw its warmest meteorological winter — December to February — on record, topping last year's record by over half a degree F, NOAA reported.
NOAA's data jibes with global temperature data from NASA released earlier this week.
While the warming effects of the natural El Niño pattern played a role, about half of the warmth was due to man-made climate change, said Mann.
"At least 50% of it is due to global warming, another 25% perhaps due to the persistent El Niño conditions, and the rest arguably due to the vagaries of month-to-month temperature fluctuations," Mann said.
So the fingerprint of human-caused climate change isn’t just evident here, it’s dominant, he added.
"The march of record-breaking global temperatures over the past decade is an expected result of human-caused climate change, and cannot be explained by natural factors," concluded Mann.
Since El Niño did play a role, these types of records will continue for a few more months, but probably will not be a permanent situation, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt told the Associated Press.
El Niño is forecast to slowly weaken over the next few months, to be replaced by the cooler-than-normal temperatures of La Niña, the Climate Prediction Center said.