By Timothy Cama - 03/08/16 12:17 PM EST
The contiguous United States had the warmest winter in 122 years of record keeping, federal officials said.
The period from December to February, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines as winter for record-keeping purposes, averaged 36.8 degrees Fahrenheit on the lower 48’s surfaces.
NOAA attributed the record mainly to the extraordinarily strong El Niño pattern in the Pacific Ocean this year, as well as the exceptionally warm December.
February’s temperature was also above average, at 39.5 degrees. It was the seventh-warmest February on record and the warmest since 2000, NOAA said.
The winter record is just the latest to fall. 2015 was the hottest year globally, becoming the fourth since 2000 to break the record, and most months in 2015 were the warmest since record keeping began.