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Earth just had its 7th-warmest January on record

Polar sea ice coverage was below average for the month
February 12, 2021
A collage of typical climate and weather-related events: heatwaves, drought, hurricanes, wildfires and changes in sea ice coverage.

True to trend, Mother Earth kicked off 2021 with a balmy January that ranked 7th-warmest in the temperature record, according to scientists with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Warmth took its toll on sea ice as well, with below-average ice coverage observed at both ends of the planet. 

Here’s more from NOAA’s latest monthly global climate report:

Climate by the numbers | January 2021

The January global land and ocean surface temperature was 1.44 degrees F (0.80 of a degree C) above the 20th-century average, making it the 7th warmest January in the 142-year climate record.

Last month was the 45th-consecutive January and the 433rd-consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.

An annotated map of the world plotted with some of the most significant climate events that occurred during January 2021. Please see the story below as well as the report summary from NOAA NCEI at http://bit.ly/Global202101.
An annotated map of the world plotted with some of the most significant climate events that occurred during January 2021. Please see the story below as well as the report summary from NOAA NCEI at http://bit.ly/Global202101. (NOAA NCEI)

More noteworthy findings

  • Near-record warmth for some continents. Africa and North America had their warmest and second-warmest January, respectively, since regional records began in 1910. Meanwhile, much of northern Asia was at least 3.6 degrees F (2.0 degrees C) below average, in stark contrast to most of 2020, when the region was well above average.
  • Polar sea ice coverage was quite small. Arctic sea ice extent (coverage) during January was 6.5% below the 1981–2010 average, making it the sixth-smallest January extent in the 43-year record. Antarctic sea ice coverage was 6.6% below the average and tied with January 2007 as the 13th smallest. January 2021 marked the sixth-consecutive January with below-average Antarctic sea ice.
  • Snow cover was near normal. The Northern Hemisphere’s snow extent for January 2021 was close to normal for this time of year. For North America, snow cover was slightly above average, while Eurasia had slightly below-average cover.

More > Access NOAA’s latest climate report and download the images.

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