This February ranked the warmest in the 123 years that average US temperatures have been recorded. More than 11,700 local daily records for warmth were broken, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Wednesday.
At about 7.3 degrees above the 20th century average, the average temperature across the country last month was a tepid and unusual 41.2 degrees. Only February of 1954 was warmer for the nation at 41.4 degrees.
Louisiana and Texas had their warmest winter on record. Oklahoma hit a sweltering 99 degrees. Chicago saw no measurable snow for the third time since 1885. Drought expanded and intensified in the Mississippi River Valley and a tornado hit western Massachusetts — a freakish first for the state.
“The observed trend is compatible with the effects of human-induced emissions of greenhouses gases,” concluded a mostly private team of researchers called World Weather Attribution. The study was not peer reviewed but the international science team uses accepted scientific methods to assess if climate change plays a role in extreme cases like February’s by using computer simulations of real world conditions.
As a matter of fact, the computer analysis calculated that man-made global warming tripled the likelihood of events like this one.
"I don't recall ever seeing a February like this," said Princeton University climate scientist Gabe Vecchi, who was part of the quick attribution study. "We expect this to happen with more and more frequency over time."
World Weather Attribution agreed that “since past and projected future greenhouse gas increases will continue to raise the temperatures, the frequency of winter months like February 2017 should be expected to increase over the coming decades.”
Several other scientists in the field, including Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor David Titley, praised the quick turnaround of the study, reported ABC. Titley, who sat on numerous advisory boards, including a National Academy of Sciences panel that certifies the accuracy of climate change attribution science, is one of many scientists stunned by the rate at which climate is changing.
When weather spikes early in spring like this, and the Gulf of Mexico hasn’t cooled down, the probability of severe spring storms and tornadoes across the US are likely, said Oklahoma University meteorology professor Jason Furtado.
The sixth warmest US winter on record could have profound effects on agriculture and health and is disrupting ecosystems throughout the country.
Under the current administration, decisions like appointing Scott Pruitt — lifelong foe of the EPA — as the head of the EPA and backpedaling on several beneficial climate policies like the Stream Protection Rule could wreak irreversible consequences.
“You definitely do feel that this is going to be something that you get to enjoy now and you pay for after the fact,” said Vecchi, who also mentioned he was biking in short-sleeves in New Jersey last month.