February ices warmth title; winter makes top 6

Exercising by Schuylkill Trail on Feb. 19, one of record four Feb. days when Phila. temperature hit 70..

Another day, another record.

Appropriately, on the last day of this incredibly warm month, the official temperature in Philadelphia made it to 68, matching the record for the date first set in 1976.

This easily became the warmest February on record, and the meteorological winter -- the December through February period -- earned a tie for sixth place on the all-time warm list in records dating to 1874.

And Tuesday was several degrees shy of being the warmest day of the month.

In February, 70-degree readings are just a shade shy of rare in Philadelphia, having occurred in only 14 of the 144 Februaries in official recordkeeping.

During this month, however, the official reading in Philadelphia reached 70 or better an unprecedented four times – besting the three of 1930.

When the temperature went above 70 on three consecutive days – last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – that also was a February precedent..

The average temperature for the month, 44.2 degrees, was a full 2 degrees warmer than No. 2, 1925.

And in 1925, it never reached 70 in February.

As for the meteorological winter – the Dec. 1-Feb. 28 period – the late surge of warmth pushed the average temperature to 40.4, which would tie it with the ultra mild winter of 1997-98.

That season, unusually warm waters in the tropical Pacific, an El Niño, flooded the atmosphere over North America with warm air.

El Niño hasn’t been a factor this time around, and, yes, the planet has been running a mild temperature; about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above 20th Century averages in December and January.

However, the warming around here has far out-paced the globe’s. January finished 5.5 degrees above normal,  and February is going to be 8-plus above.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, a long-suffering veteran of the seasonal forecasting business, cautions against looking for tidy, linear relationships in the atmosphere.

“It could be just natural variability,” he said. “It’s really hard to separate these things. There is so much randomness.”