Copernicus: ‘this winter was globally warmest on record’

According to Copernicus, the Earth Observation component of the European Union’s space program, the last three months have been the hottest worldwide. February was part of a series of nine consecutive monthly records, driven by continued greenhouse gas emissions and the El Niño weather phenomenon.

In its latest monthly report, published on Thursday, the European observatory has listed a new series of shocking figures: with an average air temperature of 13.54°C, last month registered 1.77°C above an average February over 1850-1900, the designated pre-industrial reference period. It was also 0.12°C warmer than the previous warmest month of February, in 2016.

Global average temperature

The global average temperature for the past twelve months (March 2023 – February 2024) is the highest on record, at 0.68°C above the 1991-2020 average and 1.56°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average, a new record.

Remarkable heat was recorded worldwide, from North America to Vietnam, Morocco, and most of South America. European temperatures in February 2024 were 3.30°C above the 1991-2020 average for February, with much-above-average temperatures experienced in central and eastern Europe. 

Global sea surface temperatures at record high

El Niño continued to weaken in the equatorial Pacific, but marine air temperatures, in general, remained at an unusually high level. The average global sea surface temperature (SST) for February 2024 (over 60°S–60°N) was 21.06°C, the highest for any month in the dataset, above the previous record of August 2023 (20.98°C).

European winter temperature was the second warmest on record after the winter of 2019/2020, at 1.44°C above the 1991-2020 average.

Hydrological highlights

In February 2024, it was wetter than average in Europe, in a large band from the Iberian Peninsula to western Russia, and over the UK and Ireland, southern Scandinavia, and the Alps. Precipitation was also above average over much of Italy. Wind and heavy rainfall associated with several storms caused widespread damage and disruptions.

Drier-than-average conditions were observed across most Mediterranean countries, parts of the Balkans, much of Türkiye, regions of Iceland and northern Scandinavia, and large parts of western Russia.

Beyond Europe, in February 2024, it was wetter than average over the west and the northeast of North America, in a large region from Eurasia to Central Asia, in parts of China and Japan, in south-eastern Brazil, parts of southern Africa, and northern Australia. These conditions were often associated with the transit of cyclones.

Drier-than-average conditions established in parts of North America, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, south-central Asia, most of southern Africa, South America, and Australia are often associated with wildfires.

Sea ice

Antarctic sea ice reached its annual minimum monthly extent, the third lowest in the satellite data record at 28% below average, not far from the all-time minimum from February 2023 (-33%). Little sea ice remained around Antarctica, mainly in the Weddell Sea, with below-average sea ice concentrations most prominent in the northern Weddell Sea and in the Ross-Amundsen Sea sector.


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