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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Andrew Freedman: It's Been Exactly 29 Years Since Earth Had a Colder-Than-Average Month

A man clears snow from his vehicle on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 17, 2014. IMAGE: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

by Andrew Freedman, Mashable, March 19, 2014

It's been exactly 29 years — or 348 consecutive months — since the last cooler-than-average month on this planet, according to new data released on Wednesday morning. The data, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reflects the warming trend seen around the world during the past century, which scientists blame largely on the increasing amounts of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The last cooler-than-average month (based on a 1961 to 1990 average) on a global level was February of 1985, the year the first version of Microsoft Windows was released and the first Back to the Future film hit theaters.
NOAA announced that February of 2014, however, was not as unusually mild, globally-speaking, as other recent months, coming in as the 21st-warmest February since records began in 1880. When looking only at land surface temperatures, it was the coolest February since 1994, NOAA said.
The majority of the world experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, and parts of the Arctic Ocean, western North Atlantic, and northeastern Pacific Ocean, among other areas, were record warm. Two areas that are normally frigid in February, Far East Russia and northern Scandinavia, had average temperatures of greater than 9 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the month.
February Surface Temperatures

Surface temperature anomalies for February 2014.
Parts of Finland, for example, saw February temperatures that averaged up to 16 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, and Germany had its sixth-warmest February on record.
Meanwhile, parts of Central and North America, including portions of thecontinental U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, along with western Asia had monthly average temperatures that were more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit below their February average, NOAA said.
For meteorological winter, which runs from December through February, the global average temperature was the eighth highest on record, at more than 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.
Austria, where records extend back 247 years, had its second-warmest winter on record, and Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Denmark had winters that ranked in their top 5 warmest on record, NOAA said.
The U.S., however, had its 34th coldest winter on record, with a split personality featuring above average temperatures across the West, and much below average temperatures from the Midwest to the East. While there were many winter storms that criss-crossed the U.S. this winter, the country saw nothing like what hit the UK, where 12 major storms struck between December and the end of February, breaking rainfall records and causing extensive damage.
Northern Hemisphere snow cover was above average for the winter, and the 17th largest for February since such records began 48 years ago. North America had its ninth largest February snow cover extent on record, while Eurasia had its 21st largest, NOAA said.
According to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the average February Arctic sea ice extent was 5.58 million square miles, which was 350,000 square miles, or 5.9%, below the 1981 to 2010 average of 5.93 million square miles. At times, Arctic sea ice extent flirted with record low levels for February, and the overall February extent was the fourth lowest February Arctic ice extent since satellite records began in 1979.
In contrast, Antarctic sea ice, which covers a smaller area than Arctic sea ice, was well above average, at the fourth largest February ice extent on record.
Climate scientists have found that manmade climate change is very likely causing a decline in Arctic sea ice extent, but that the picture for the South Pole sea ice is more complicated, due to natural climate variability, the loss of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, and other causes.
While climate skeptics have seized on the growing Antarctic sea ice extent as evidence that global warming is not, in fact, melting global sea ice, most climate scientists say the sea ice trends are consistent with what is expected from manmade global warming.

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