Mar 15, 2016 by


NASA data shows that global surface temperatures warmed last month by an unprecedented margin.

The February temperature spike shocked climate scientists.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

New data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) shows that February temperatures shattered all previous warm weather records for this month.

However, this was no ordinary record-breaking month, which we’ve been seeing a lot of lately. The average global surface temperature was 1.35 degrees Celsius warmer than 1951 to 1980 average, meaning that February warmed by an unprecedented margin.

 Compare this spike to the previous record-breaking Februaries: 0.88 degrees above average in 1998 and 0.87 degrees above in 2015.

The temperature leap for this February was so great it left climate scientists stunned.

The director of GISS and principal investigator for the GISS ModelE Earth System Model released the following Tweet.

“This is really quite stunning … it’s completely unprecedented,” Stefan Rahmstorf, from Germany’s Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, told Fairfax Media.

Meteorologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson referred to February’s margin of warming “jaw-dropping” and an “ominous milestone in our march toward an ever-warmer planet.”

The increase raises temperatures for February above 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. While this increase could go back down in coming months, it is a bad sign, given that the international community agreed at the UN-brokered climate talks in December to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, following pressure from global civil society and social movement groups.

“It’s the first time humanity has hit 1.5 degrees Celsius above industrial temperatures,” Bill Snape, senior counsel to the Center for Biological Diversity, told AlterNet. “We are already at the target, and that’s scary. It reinforces the fact that we need to move fast at reducing greenhouse pollutants, and we need to do so radically.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, Sarah co-edited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

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