Death Valley Hits Record 130 degrees

This might be the hottest temperature ever "reliably" recorded on Earth.

Death Valley National Park
Parts of Death Valley are some of the lowest, driest, and hottest on Earth. tobiasjo / Getty Images

Temperatures at Furnace Creek in Death Valley in the southern California desert reached a sizzling 130 degrees F (54.4 C) on Sunday, Aug. 16. This might be the highest temperature ever "reliably" recorded.

This is the hottest temperature recorded anywhere in the world since 1913, when 134 degrees (56.7 C) was reported in Death Valley, or since 1931 when 131 F (55 C) was reported in Tunisia, Dave Samuhel, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather tells Treehugger. “While both of those temperatures are official, there is some debate about the accuracy of the readings," he says. 

On July 1, 1913, temperatures reached 129 F (53.9) in Death Valley, reports the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center. The highest temperature ever recorded in the world was also in Death Valley. According to the World Meteorological Association, temperatures hit 134 F (56.7 C) on July 10, 1913 at Furnace Creek, formerly known as Greenland Ranch. 

Questioning Weather Records

Furnace Creek held the world record for highest air temperature for nearly a decade until a reading of 136.4 F (58 C) was reported in El Azizia, Libya on Sept. 13, 1922. Questioning that number, a panel of international climate experts from the World Meteorological Association and the Commission of Climatology conducted an investigation of the El Azizia reading. After identifying five major concerns including problems with instrumentations and the observer who recorded the reading, they rejected the temperature as the highest recorded on the planet in a 2013 report in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The Death Valley temperature on July 10, 1913, was reinstated as the hottest recorded surface temperature ever on Earth. Researchers have noted that there were extremely strong winds on that day, so sandstorms may have contributed to those temperatures.

Reliable Records

But some weather researchers question the accuracy of the previous Death Valley number, as well as the one in Tunisia.

In a 2016 analysis, Weather Underground meteorologist Christopher Burt said that there were discrepancies in measurements taken in the area in July 1913. They were 18 degrees above normal in Death Valley, while other area sites were 8 to 11 degrees above normal.

If these readings are questioned, then experts say the true highest temperature "reliably" recorded on Earth is 129.2 F (54 C), from June 30, 2013 in Death Valley.

Until now.

The weather pattern that produced this hot temperature in Death Valley was responsible for widespread record heat Sunday, Samuhel tells Treehugger.

“Every state from the Rockies westward, except for Wyoming and Montana, set a record high temperature,” he says. "Some places are looking at 2020 being the hottest August ever like Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.”

And nothing is cooling off yet.

“The forecast is for more extreme heat. Today will be nearly as hot as yesterday in Death Valley," he says. "The heat will be widespread across the West through the week. But, even next week is looking hotter than average across the Southwestern U.S.”