California’s Death Valley Sees Hottest Temperature Recorded On Earth In A Century

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A few days ago, a weather station at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, the desert valley in Eastern California in the U.S., recorded an extreme high temperature of 54.4°C. The temperature, if verified, could be the hottest temperature officially and reliably recorded since 1913, over a century ago. Scientists say that the trend of increasingly high temperatures in the northern hemisphere is a clear indication of the severity of the climate crisis, which left unchecked could lead to life-threatening impacts sooner and more frequently than previously predicted. 

A temperature of 54.4°C or 129.9°F has been recorded by the U.S. National Weather Service’s automated station at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California at 3.41pm on Sunday (August 16). While the observation is still considered preliminary, the NWS Las Vegas issued a statement saying that if it is verified, it would represent the hottest on record for over a century.

“If verified, this will be the hottest temperature officially verified since July of 1913, also at Death Valley,” said the NWS Las Vegas. The all-time record high temperature of 56.7°C in Death Valley was recorded in July 10, 1913.

Commenting on the latest 54.4°C on Sunday, Professor Randy Cerveny of Arizona State University told the Washington Post that “everything I’ve seen so far indicates that is a legitimate observation”. 

If verified, this will be the hottest temperature officially verified since July of 1913, also at Death Valley.

NWS Las Vegas

Some experts believe that this most recent Death Valley temperature reading stands as the hottest ever that has ever officially and reliably recorded on the planet. 

“It’s quite possible the Death Valley high set a new global heat record. The extreme nature of the surrounding weather pattern makes such a reading plausible, so the case deserves a solid review.” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist, in conversation with the American Geophysical Union.

There are nagging questions about the validity of even hotter reports from Death Valley in 1913 and Tunisia in 1931. What we can say with high confidence is that, if confirmed, this is the highest temperature observed on Earth in almost a century.

California has seen extremely high temperatures in the past weeks, leading to wildfires raging across the state, including one which has reportedly transformed into a “firenado” – a phenomenon that occurs when hot air from a fire on the ground begins to rotate in the winds higher up, making it look like a tornado mixed with fire. 

What we can say with high confidence is that, if confirmed, this is the highest temperature observed on Earth in almost a century.

Bob Henson, Meteorologist at the American Geophysical Union

Scientists have become seriously concerned about the creeping temperatures in many parts of the northern hemisphere, which has persisted year after year. In June this year, temperatures recorded in the Arctic circle were as hot as Hong Kong’s average temperature for the month, and some researchers believe that this could lead to the disappearance of polar bears before the end of this century.

Experts have called on urgent climate action as evidence becomes increasingly clear that the deadly combination of heat and humidity as a result of unprecedented extreme weather outbreaks could become far more frequent across Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America if global heating continues. 

Without a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the deaths that could result from rising temperatures could be higher than the loss of life from all infectious diseases combined, according to an analysis by the Climate Impact Lab. 


Lead image courtesy of iStock.


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