February was cool here, warm globally

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published its global and national data for February and for the past winter months. It demonstrates as clearly as anything could that what's happening locally, even nationally, does not necessarily reflect the global trends that we all need to be concerned about.

In the contiguous United States, February was cool, averaging 2.2 degrees below the long-term average.  Nearly two-thirds of the nation experienced below-normal temperatures. The averages were much below normal in the southeast, the Plains and mid-Atlantic states. Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York's Central Park and Wilmington, Del. all had their snowiest winters ever.

Florida had its fourth-coldest February since records began in the 19th century, and Louisiana had its fifth-coldest. On the other hand, Maine had its third-warmest winter on record. It was also warmer than average in the Northwest.

It was also a warm February - and a warm winter globally, according to NOAA. The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for February was the sixth warmest on record. The global land surface temperature alone for the month was tied with 1994 as the 14th warmest.

While it was unusually cold in the U.S., Mexico, Europe and Russia, most of the rest of the globe's land masses were warmer than average in February, especially Alaska, Canada, the Middle East and North Africa.

The winter as a whole was the fifth-warmest on record globally, just over one degree warmer than the 20th century average, NOAA said. Land temperatures were the 13th warmest on record.

While the United Kingdom had its coolest winter since 1978-79, much of Australia was warmer than normal. Western Australia, where drought has been a problem (photo), saw its warmest December through February period (summer) on record.

The Arctic saw its 12th consecutive February with below-average sea ice extent. February arctic sea ice has declined by 2.9 percent per decade since 1979. At the same time, on the other end of the planet, Antarctic sea ice has been expanding. The southern continent saw its eighth-largest February sea ice extent on record. It has increased by 3.1 percent per decade since the '70s.

Across the Northern Hemisphere, snow cover in February was the third-largest on record, after 1978 and 1972. For the winter, it was the second-largest snowcover on record. For North America alone, it was the largest, NOAA said. 

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