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100th Anniversary of All Time World Record High Temperature

Death Valley lies mostly in east-central California (Credit Georgraphy.howstuffworks.com) Death Valley lies mostly in east-central California (Credit Georgraphy.howstuffworks.com)

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the all-time highest temperature ever recorded on Earth: 134°F... measured in Death Valley, California in July of 1913. The recent extreme heat across the West brought that record back into the spotlight. It hit 129 degrees on June 30 of this year… which fell short of the all-time temperature… but it did set a new June record both for Death Valley and for the entire United States!

Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California. Situated within the Mojave Desert, it is the lowest, hottest and driest area in North America.

Why so hot you may ask??? Well the depth and shape of Death Valley influence its summer temperatures. The valley is a long... narrow basin 282 feet below sea level... yet is walled by high and steep mountain ranges. The clear... dry air and sparse plant cover allow sunlight to heat the desert surface. Heat radiates back from the rocks and soil... then becomes trapped in the valley's depths. Summer nights provide little relief as overnight lows may only dip into the 85°F to 95°F range.

Heated air rises yet is trapped by the high valley walls... it is then cooled and recycled back down to the valley floor. These pockets of descending air are only slightly cooler than the surrounding hot air. As they descend... they are compressed and heated even more by the low elevation air pressure. These moving masses of super heated air blow through the valley creating extreme high temperatures.

The Previous hottest temperature world record of 136F was recorded at El Azizia Libya was reviewed (2010-2012) by a World Meteorological Organization Commission of Climatology special international panel of meteorological experts conducted an in-depth investigation of the long-held world-record temperature extreme of 136.4 ºF. That temperature (often cited by numerous sources as the highest surface temperature for the planet) was recorded at El Azizia  in what is now modern-day Libya on September 13 1922.

The investigating committee identified five major concerns with the 1922 El Azizia temperature extreme record... specifically

(a) problematical instrumentation

(b) a likely inexperienced observer

(c) an observation site which was not representative of the desert surroundings

(d) poor matching of the extreme to other nearby locations

(e) poor matching to subsequent temperatures recorded at the site.

The WMO evaluation committee concluded the most compelling scenario for the 1922 event was that a new and inexperienced observer... not trained in the use of an unsuitable replacement instrument that could be easily misread... improperly recorded the observation and was consequently in error.

Based on these concerns... the WMO CCl World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes rejected the 136F temperature extreme measured at El Azizia in 1922... so now Death Valley holds the world record.

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