February 2023 Temperature Update

The following is a summary of global temperature conditions in Berkeley Earth’s analysis of February 2023.

  • Globally, February 2023 was the 5th warmest February since records began in 1850.
  • On land, February 2023 was the 9th warmest February since 1850.
  • Warm conditions occurred in much of Asia, parts of Europe, the Arctic Ocean, the Eastern United States, and several oceanic regions in the Southern Ocean.
  • Unusually cool conditions were present in parts of Canada, parts of Antarctica, and northeastern Asia.
  • La Niña has ended, with a transition to El Niño considered more likely than not later this year.
  • 2023 is most likely to be the 3rd, 4th, or 5th warmest year, but considerable uncertainty remains, including the possibility of 2023 becoming a record warm year.

Global Summary

Globally, February 2023 has been the fifth warmest February since records began in 1850. This February was warmer than the previous two years, but still significantly colder than the recent warm years including 2020, 2017 and 2016. February 2023 was nonetheless warmer than any February prior to 2016.

The global mean temperature in February 2023 was 1.28 ± 0.07 °C (2.31 ± 0.13 °F) above the 1850 to 1900 average, which is frequently used as a benchmark for the preindustrial period.

The global mean temperature anomaly in February 2023 was a modest increase from January 2023, and similar to many months during 2022. Temperatures in February were close to the long-term trend line, and consistent what we would expect from the ongoing pattern of global warming.

Spatial Variation

February 2023 continues the ongoing pattern of widespread warmth, though with some notable exceptions. Particularly warm conditions were present in most of Asia, parts of Europe, the eastern United States, the Arctic Ocean, and some oceanic areas in the Southern Hemisphere. Record setting warmth for this time of year was also present in the horn of Africa. Though the warmth across Asia is pronounced, this region is highly variable in winter, and most areas did not set new records.

Particularly cool conditions were present in parts of Canada, northeastern Asia, the western United States, parts of Antarctica, and parts of the Southern Pacific.

We estimate that 2.2% of the Earth’s surface experienced their locally warmest February average, and 70% of the Earth’s surface was significantly warm when compared to their local average during the period 1951 to 1980. Compared to other recent months, this 2.2% fraction is relatively low, and reflects the relatively large number of records that had previously been set in other recent years.

In addition, 0.1% of the Earth’s surface had their locally coldest February.

The cool area that had existed in the eastern Equatorial Pacific has now almost entirely dissipated. This marks the end of La Niña conditions. We are currently in a neutral or transitional phase, with a transition towards El Niño considered likely later in 2023.

Over land regions, 2023 was the 9th warmest February ever observed. The land average was 1.85 ± 0.14 °C (3.33 ± 0.26 °F) above the 1850 to 1900 average.

February 2023 was the 5th warmest February in the oceans, recorded as 0.89 ± 0.07 °C (1.60 ± 0.12 °F) above the 1850 to 1900 average. This is modestly warmer than the previous two La Niña years, though markedly cooler than the peaks in 2016 and 2020.

Seasonal Temperatures (December to February)

The December to February period (winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere) was the 5th warmest such period on record. It was similar to the previous year and marginally warmer than 2021, though well below the warmth in 2016 and 2020.

The previous three months are characterized by widespread warmth with the notable exceptions of Antarctica, Australia, and the Southern Pacific.

La Niña

February 2023 shows a return to neutral conditions in the Pacific Ocean. The now ended La Niña event began in 2020 and had exhibited unusual longevity. The CPC/IRI analysis suggests that neutral conditions persist for at least a few months, followed by a 60% chance of a shift to El Niño conditions during the middle or end of 2023.

Predictions of future sea surface temperatures in the core ENSO region from IRI/CPC.
Predictions of future El Niño/La Niña from IRI/CPC.

Year to Date

The most significant spatial features of year-to-date temperatures are the end of La Niña, warmth across much of the northern mid-latitudes, and several ocean hotspots in the Southern Hemisphere. Year-to-date, 3.3% of the Earth’s surface has experienced record warmth. In addition, 0.02% of the surface has been record cold year-to-date.

Rest of 2023

Year-to-date temperatures place 2023 as the 5th warmest so far, but with considerably uncertainty for the rest of 2023. Absent an enormous volcanic eruption, or other exceptional intervening event, it is near certain that 2023 will become one of the top ten warmest years.

The statistical approach that we use, looking at conditions in recent months, believes that 2023 is likely to be the 3rd, 4th, or 5th warmest year in the instrumental record (60% likelihood). This projection includes a substantial likelihood that the rest of 2023 will be warmer than January and February, potentially boosted by a transition to El Niño. There is low, but nontrivial, chance that 2023 will warm sufficiently to become the warmest year on record (18% likelihood). This outcome is likely contingent on a strong El Niño developing. Even in the presence of a strong El Niño, 2023 would still be unlikely to exceed 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) above the preindustrial benchmark.

It is worth noting that there is a lag between the development of an El Niño condition and its maximum impact on global temperatures, so if an El Niño does develop later this year, it will likely have an even larger impact on 2024 than 2023.

Likelihood of final 2023 ranking:

  • 1st place (18 %)
  • 2nd or 3rd overall (15 %)
  • 4th or 5th place (49 %)
  • 6th place (7 %)
  • 7th, 8th or 9th place (10 %)
    • Top 9 overall (> 99 %)

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