Copernicus Climate Report: Surface air temperature for January 2020
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Last month the global temperature was warmer than any previous January in this data record, although almost on par with January 2016 (at 0.03C warmer). For Europe, it was the warmest January on record, about 0.2ºC warmer than the previous warmest January in 2007, and 3.1°C warmer than the average January in the period 1981-2010. Average temperatures were especially high over large parts of northeastern Europe, in some areas more than 6°C above the 1981-2010 January average.
Surface air temperature anomaly for January 2020 relative to the January average for the period 1981-2010. Data source: ERA5.
Temperatures in January 2020 were above the 1981-2010 average over most of Europe. They were exceptionally high for the time of year in the north and east, in a band spreading eastward and south-eastward from Norway to Russia, with values more than 6ºC above average in many places. Norway experienced its warmest January day on record early in the month, and the month was the second warmest since 1900 for the country as a whole.
Skiers and reindeer herders were among those affected by mild conditions in Sweden. Observing stations in central and southern Finland recorded their warmest January in the period since at least 1961.
Temperatures were on average a little below normal over the Carpathian Basin and in several parts of southern Europe. Rather unusually for recent years, they were also below normal over parts of the Svalbard archipelago and over the Barents Sea to the east, where sea-ice extent was close to its 1981-2010 average. Warm than average temperatures east of Greenland extending to the north-west of Svalbard coincide with below-average sea-ice cover there.
Exceptional above-average temperatures were not confined to Europe, but extended over almost all of Russia. Temperatures were also much above average over most of the USA and eastern Canada, over Japan and parts of eastern China and Southeast Asia, over the state of New South Wales in Australia and over parts of Antarctica.
Temperatures were substantially below average over Alaska and north-western Canada, and over Baffin and Ellesmere Islands in north-eastern Canada. It was also colder than average, but to a lesser degree, over several other regions.
Although regions of below-average temperature occurred over all major oceans, particularly in the southern hemisphere, air temperatures over sea were predominantly higher than the 1981-2010 average. Global means of the marine air temperature and underlying sea surface temperature were both close to the respective peak values that occurred at the time of the 2015/16 El Niño.
Monthly global-mean and European-mean surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1981-2010, from January 1979 to January 2020. The darker coloured bars denote the January values. Data source: ERA5.
Global temperatures were substantially above average in January 2020. The month was:
- 0.77°C warmer than the average January from 1981-2010, becoming by a narrow margin the warmest January in this data record;
- warmer by 0.03°C than January 2016, which was previously the warmest January;
- close to 0.2°C warmer than January 2017, which is now the third warmest January;
- exceeded in anomalous warmth only by February and March 2016.
European-average temperature anomalies are generally larger and more variable than global anomalies, especially in winter, when they can change by several degrees from one month to the next. The European-average temperature for January 2020 was particularly high. The month was:
- 3.1°C warmer than the average January in the period 1981-2010;
- warmer than any other January in this data record, by about 0.2ºC in the case of January 2007, the previous warmest January.
The last 12 months - February 2019 to January 2020
Surface air temperature anomaly for February 2019 to January 2020 relative to the average for 1981-2010. Data source: ERA5.
Temperatures averaged over the twelve-month period from February 2019 to January 2020 were:
- well above the 1981-2010 average over and near Alaska, over the far northeast of Canada, and over central parts of northern Siberia;
- above average over almost all of Europe, more so in the east;
- also much above average over southern Africa, Australia and some parts of the Antarctic;
- above average over most other areas of land and ocean;
- below average over some land and oceanic areas, most notably over a central part of North America.
12 month global temperature anomaly
Running twelve-month averages of global-mean and European-mean surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1981-2010, based on monthly values from January 1979 to January 2020. The darker coloured bars are the averages for each of the calendar years from 1979 to 2019. Data source: ERA5.
Averaging over twelve-month periods smooths out shorter-term variations in regional- and global-average temperatures. Globally, the twelve-month period from February 2019 to January 2020 was 0.62°C warmer than the 1981-2010 average. The warmest twelve-month period was from October 2015 to September 2016, with a temperature 0.66°C above average. 2016 is the warmest calendar year on record, with a global temperature 0.63°C above that for 1981-2010. 2019 is the second warmest calendar year in this data record, with a temperature 0.59°C above average.
0.63°C should be added to these values to relate recent global temperatures to the pre-industrial level defined in the IPCC Special Report on “Global Warming of 1.5°C”. The average temperature for the twelve months to January 2020 is around 1.25°C above the level. The average for January 2020 alone is about 1.4°C above the level. The only month whose average temperature reached more than 1.5°C above the level is February 2016.
The spread in the global averages from various temperature datasets has been relatively large over the past three years. During this period the twelve-month-average temperatures, relative to 1981-2010, presented here are higher than those from five other datasets, by between 0.03°C and 0.14°C, with median 0.06°C, for the year 2019. This is due partly to differences in the extent to which datasets represent the relatively warm conditions that have predominated over the Arctic and the seas around Antarctica. Differences in estimates both of sea-surface temperature elsewhere and of temperatures over land outside the Arctic have been further factors. There is nevertheless general agreement between the datasets regarding:
- the exceptional warmth of 2016, and the warmth also of 2015, 2017, 2018 and especially 2019;
- the general increase in global temperature at an average rate close to 0.2°C per decade since the late 1970s;
- the sustained period of above-average temperatures from 2002 onwards.
There is more variability in average European temperatures, but values are less uncertain because observational coverage of the continent is relatively dense. Twelve-month averages for Europe were at a high level from 2014 to 2016. They then fell, but remained 0.5°C or more above the 1981-2010 average.
Twelve-month averages have subsequently risen again. The latest average, to January 2020, is more than 1.5°C above the 1981-2010 norm, marginally higher than that of the warmest such period previously on record, from April 2018 to March 2019. 2019 was the warmest calendar year on record for Europe as a whole.
The average surface air temperature analysis homepage explains more about the production and reliability of the values presented here.