In the United States, this January and February were some of the hottest months on record. January was the warmest on record, the 44th consecutive January with temperatures above records from the 20th century. Temperatures were 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the northern hemisphere, and 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in the southern hemisphere. In the United States, several states experienced below average snowfall and precipitation. February continued the trend – measuring an average of 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, making this one of the warmest winters ever.
Perhaps most notably, this warm winter was not preceded by a strong El Niño event. El Niño, an ocean-atmosphere climate event resulting in ocean warming, has often been tied to warmer Januarys such as in 2016. The four warmest winters have occurred since 2016.
NOAA scientists predict this record-breaking winter could precede a record-breaking year. The southwest is expected to be dry and experience drought, and Alaska is also predicted to have a warm year. In some areas, springs could be wetter and summer temperatures could arrive earlier.
Scientists have repeatedly warned about climate tipping points, events that lead to severe consequences, arguing society needs to take directed action to avoid future catastrophe. Warm winters have already led to cascading effects, such as wildfires in Australia and record temperatures in the Arctic. It’s no longer enough to meet expectations. As the report warns, “international action — not just words — must reflect this.”