State-of-the-European-climate: February 2020

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Storm Ciara

Storm Ciara (called Sabine in Germany and Elsa in Norway) crossed over Europe in the second week of February. Its low pressure center moved from Scotland on 9 February to northern Scandinavia on 11 February. Strong wind gusts occurred in large parts of Europe: United Kingdom (largest recorded value 202 km/h, in Cairngorm Summit), France (219 km/h, Cap Corse), Germany (177 km/h, Feldberg), Switzerland (202 km/h, Andermatt), and Poland (198 km/h, Sniezka).

The storm was related to a large pressure difference of more than 80 hPa between Scotland and Spain (figure 1), and was in some regions accompanied by large amounts of rain.

Storm Ciara caused major disruption along its track, such as cancelled flights, interrupted railway service, power outage, and flooding. The estimated damage is about EUR 1.5 billion. There were 13 fatalities, of which three in the United Kingdom and three in Poland.

The more than 100 m/s (360 km/h) jet stream over the North Atlantic (figure 2) enabled a new record for the fastest subsonic flight between New York and London, overnight from 8 to 9 February.

Figure 1: Surface pressure (contours) and wind (colours) on 9 February 2020 18 UTC. Source: ECMWF/KNMI.

Figure 2: Height at 300 hPa (contours) and wind (colours) on 9 February 2020 0 UTC. Source: ECMWF/KNMI.

Specific climate indicators for February 2020

In large parts of Europe all 29 day-times and nights of the month had temperatures in the highest 10th percentile (Figures 3 and 4). The main exceptions are Ireland, Scotland, and most of Scandinavia. Also, the number of frost days (Figure 5) was extremely low in most of the countries.

Figure 3: TN90p: Days with TN > 90th percentile (warm nights) in February 2020 (left) and anomaly w.r.t. 1981-2010 (right)

Figure 4: TX90p: Days with TX > 90th percentile (warm day-times) in February 2020 and anomaly w.r.t. 1981-2010 (right)

Figure 5: FD: Number of frost days in February 2020 (left) and anomaly w.r.t. 1981-2010 (right)

Precipitation amounts were much above average for the northern and central part of Europe. Especially in the northwestern part total rainfall amounts were around 80 mm more than normal. In the southern part it was the opposite, with in Portugal and Italy around 80 mm less precipitation than normal.

Figure 6: PRCPTOT: Precipitation in wet days in February 2020 (left) and anomaly w.r.t. 1981-2010 (right)

The weather in February 2020

Temperature deviations and extremes

Temperatures in February 2020 were exceptionally above the 1981-2010 average over almost all of Europe (Figure 8). The European-average temperature was 3.9°C warmer than the average February temperature for 1981-2010 (Figure 7). Only in Ireland, Scotland, and parts of Scandinavia temperatures were around the 1981-2010 average.

Figure 7: February 2020 minimum (left), average (middle), and maximum (right) temperature differences from reference period 1981-2010 (E-OBS)

Figure 8: Areas with exceptional low and high monthly averaged minimum temperature (left), mean temperature (middle), and maximum temperature (right) in February 2020 (Based on E-OBS). The qualifications "exceptionally above (below) average", much above (below) average, slightly above (below) average and normal relate to the percentile ranges >90 (<10), 75-90 (10-25), 60-75 (25-40) and 40-60 as calculated from the climatological period 1981-2010.

Figure 9: Lowest minimum temperature (TNn, left), and highest maximum temperature (TXx, right) in February 2020. (Based on E-OBS)

Figure 10: Areas with exceptionally low temperatures of the coldest night (TNn, left), and exceptionally warm temperatures of the warmest day (TXx, right) in February 2020 (Based on E-OBS)

Evolution of the European land-surface temperature

Figure 11 shows the European-averaged temperature from 1950 onward, where blue bars show temperatures which are below the 1981-2010 average and red bars above this mean value. The green bar is the provisional 2020 estimate, based on data until the end of February and climatological means for the remaining months. The grey bars in the panel indicate the estimated uncertainties which take into account the errors introduced by spatial interpolation over areas without observation stations, inhomogeneities in the temperature data that result from station relocations / changes in measurement instruments etc., and biases due to urbanisation, as documented in Van der Schrier et al. (2013) and Chrysanthou et al. (2014). The uncertainties tell us that although we are not 100% certain about the ranking of individual years, the overall positive trend since the 1980s is very pronounced.

Figure 11: European land surface temperature: annual anomalies with the current year in green. The grey bands show the uncertainty in the averaged temperature. (Based on E-OBS)


Western and central Europe as well as the Atlantic coast of Norway were exceptionally wetter than normal (Figure 12), due to several depressions that passed this area. A large part of southern Europe was exceptionally dry (Figure 13).

Figure 12: Monthly average precipitation sums over Europe and highest 1-day (RX1day) and 5-day sums (RX5day) in February 2020 (Based on E-OBS).

Figure 13: Areas with exceptional amounts of precipitation per month (RR sum, left), maximum in 1 day (RX1day, middle) and maximum over 5 days (RX5day, right) in February 2020 (Based on E-OBS)

Figure 14: Precipitation fraction in February with respect to 1981-2010 per year. Top row: Northwest Europe, Central Europe, Northeast Europe. Bottom row: Southwest Europe, Region definitions, Southeast Europe. (Based on E-OBS)

Radiation and Cloudiness

Figure 15: Monthly map of surface incoming shortwave radiation (left) and its anomaly (right, with respect to 1983-2005) (METEOSAT Seviri/Mviri product, source CM SAF)

Figure 16: Monthly maps of cloud cover (left) and its absolute anomaly (right, with respect to 1982-2009) (AVHRR, source CM SAF)

About the Copernicus State of the European Climate

Monthly and yearly State of the European Climate bulletins are prepared for audience of mainly non-meteorologists/climatologists interested in impact of weather and climate. In these bulletins, the main features of the most recent calendar month is shown, with a focus on extremes and significant deviations from climatology. The information is provided within their historical context, and includes references to addional information. The bulletin is based on Copernicus products, but also contains information from other sources as appropriate.


29 June 2020
16 June 2020
Monthly E-OBS update released
9 June 2020
A long-term monthly precipitation reconstruction for Fennoscandia is available as NGCD_rec
28 May 2020
E-OBS v21.0e released
26 May 2020
Monthly E-OBS update released
29 April 2020
22 April 2020
22 April 2020
Monthly E-OBS update released
31 March 2020
NGCD v20.03 released
30 March 2020
Monthly E-OBS update released
24 February 2020
24 February 2020
Monthly E-OBS update released
23 January 2020
21 January 2020
Monthly E-OBS update released
21 January 2020
19 December 2019
12 December 2019
Monthly E-OBS update released