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The global temperature in February took its greatest leap in 136 years of record-keeping, rising 1.35 degrees Celsius (2.43 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1951-1980 average. February was hands down the hottest on record. When NASA released the data last week, scientists around the world reacted with astonishment.

The 1.35-degree difference from the 1951 base line marked the greatest monthly departure on record, 0.21 degrees Celsius above the next biggest departure established just the month before that.

The extraordinary global warmth was set in motion by the long-term climate-warming trend, but it surged to another level because of the record-challenging El Niño event that released into the atmosphere large quantities of heat stored in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 At 1.51.12 AmThe heat injection helped this February pass February 1998, the previous record holder, by a whopping 0.47 degrees Celsius (0.85 Fahrenheit). Although February 1998’s global temperature also spiked because of El Niño, this year’s rise was steeper and started at a higher base line because of the years of climate warming in between.

February’s warmth was especially pronounced over land areas in the Northern Hemisphere outside the tropics. In the Arctic, temperatures were remarkably warm, about 6 degrees Celsius (almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal, and sea ice was at a record low for the month.