Death Valley is Earth's Hottest Place (Again)

The super-heated California landmark beats out Libya for the title
Staff Writer

As days grow longer and temperatures drop, you can still eke out a last bit of summer in at least one spot: Death Valley in the Southern California desert. The area recently reclaimed the title of the hottest day ever recorded after a team of atmospheric scientists invalidated a temperature reading from 1922 in El Azizia, Libya, according to The Washington Post. 

Thirteen scientists from nine countries reviewed the Libyan record of 136 degrees Fahrenheit after weather historian Christopher Burt from Weather Underground began an official inquiry. The investigation was tricky business, given that research started right as the Libyan revolution exploded. When the primary contact inside the country went missing, researchers suspended the project. Eight months later, the contact reappeared and the study moved forward. The scientists found five problems with the temperature measurement including the use of antiquated instrumentation and poor matching of the temperature to nearby locations.

So an area of Death Valley called Furnace Creek now holds the record at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. It was recorded on July 10, 1913 at a weather station in Greenland Ranch, California. The temperature was part of a heat wave that produced five consecutive days at or above 129 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Park Service.  

Death Valley’s temperatures are a result of its depth and shape. The valley sits 282 feet below sea level and is walled in by steep mountains. Clear, dry air and a lack of plant cover allow sunlight to super-heat the valley floor. (The hottest surface temperature ever recorded was 201 degrees Fahrenheit at Furnace Creek on July 15, 1972.) The shape and scalding surface temperatures also affect air circulation. As hot air rises, it gets trapped by the high mountain walls. The air cools slightly and falls back down only to absorb even more heat. 

A visit to Death Valley in the summer will certainly earn you bragging rights, but it’s much more pleasant to visit later in the year. Daytime temperatures can stay very hot until November. In the winter, however, Death Valley boasts sunny skies and mild low-elevation temperatures during the day.

Via Gadling.

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