February 2014: Earth's 21st Warmest February on Record
February 2014 was the globe's 21st warmest February since records began in 1880, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), and 17th warmest, according to NASA. Relative to average, February 2014 was Earth's coolest month in two years. February 2014 global land temperatures were the 44th warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 7th warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in February 2013 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were 13th or 9th warmest in the 36-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), respectively. Wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has a comprehensive post on the notable weather events of February 2014 in his February 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for February 2014, the 21st warmest February for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. The majority of the world's land surfaces experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, with record warmth over Far East Russia, Southern Mexico, and Southern Europe. The Midwest U.S. had the largest area of much cooler than average temperatures for any place on the globe. The Northern Hemisphere land was 0.17°C (0.31°F) above average, the 53rd warmest February on record, and coolest February in the past two decades. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .
The two billion-dollar weather disasters of February 2014
Two billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth during February 2014: Winter Storm Tini in the U.K., which killed 1 and did $1.0 billion in damage, and winter weather and heavy snows in Japan that killed 37 and did $1.2 billion in damage. These two disasters bring the world-wide tally of billion-dollar weather disasters in 2014 to three, according to the February 2014 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield.
Disaster 1. Winter Storm Tini brought extreme winds gusting above 160 kph (100 mph) and flooding to Western Europe February 11 - 13, 2014, killing at least one person and causing $1 billion in damage. The worst damage was in Ireland, Wales and England as hurricane-force winds ripped off portions of roofs, blew down trees, and knocked out power to over 400,000 customers. In this photo, a car sits in flood water besides agricultural buildings on the Somerset Levels near Burrowbridge on February 14, 2014 in Somerset, England. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Disaster 2. Pedestrians cross a street in the snow in Tokyo on February 15, 2014. The heaviest snow in decades fell across portions of Japan February 8 - 16, 2014, killing 37 and injuring 2,750, mostly in traffic accidents. Tokyo's 27 centimeters (10.6 inches) of snow was the most snow in 45 years. The heavy snow caused widespread residential and commercial damage while also severely disrupting transportation and causing production delays. Total economic losses were expected to approach $1.2 billion. Photo credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images.
Neutral El Niño conditions continue in the equatorial Pacific
February 2014 featured neutral El Niño conditions in the equatorial Eastern Pacific, but NOAA has issued an El Niño Watch for the summer and fall of 2014, giving a 50% chance that an El Niño event will occur this year. The March 6 El Niño discussion from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center noted that "While all models predict warming in the tropical Pacific, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether El Niño will develop during the summer or fall. If westerly winds continue to emerge in the western equatorial Pacific, the development of El Niño would become more likely. However, the lower forecast skill during the spring and overall propensity for cooler conditions over the last decade still justify significant probabilities for ENSO-neutral. The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall." None of the El Niño models (updated in mid-February 2014) predict La Niña conditions for peak hurricane season, August-September-October 2014, and 8 of 18 predict El Niño conditions. Temperatures in the equatorial Eastern Pacific need to be 0.5°C above average or warmer for three consecutive months for an El Niño episode to be declared; sea surface temperatures were -0.4°C from average as of March 17, and have been +0.1 to -0.7°C from average since April 1, 2013. El Niño conditions tend to make quieter than average Atlantic hurricane seasons, due to an increase in upper-level winds that create strong wind shear over the Tropical Atlantic. There have been two major Westerly Wind Bursts over the equatorial Pacific Ocean over the past two months that have helped pushed warm water eastwards towards South America. The most recent of these bursts has now diminished, and there will likely need to be at least one more Westerly Wind Burst in order for a full-fledged El Niño to develop.
Arctic sea ice falls to 4th lowest February extent on record
Arctic sea ice extent during February was 4th lowest in the 36-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Temperatures in the Arctic were 4 - 8°C (7 - 14°F) above average for the month. Northern Hemisphere snow cover during February was the 17th largest in the 48-year record.
Figure 2. One of the most astonishing weather disasters of February 2014 was the February 3 ice storm in Slovenia, as seen in this wunderphoto of an ice storm-devastated forest made on February 4, 2014. The tree damage is incredible. Image credit: wunderphotographer domcek.
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
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