Death Valley Set an All-Time Heat Record for the Planet This Past Weekend

This past weekend was a potentially record-breaking one in Death Valley, where thermometers soared to incredible heights. In fact, the official temperature in the national park, which is the lowest and hottest point in the western hemisphere, hit an all time high, not just for the region itself, but possibly the entire planet.

According to the U.S. National Weather Service, on Sunday the official temperature in Death Valley reached an oppressive 130ºF (54.4ºC). That would make it the warmest temperature ever recorded in August by a full 3ºF (1.7ºC), as well as the hottest temperature in at least 100 years. But perhaps even more alarming is that it just might be the highest temperature ever recorded anywhere on the planet since such records have been kept.

Meteorologists are quick to point out that the hottest temperature ever officially recorded also took place in Death Valley back on July 10, 1913. That’s when the mercury climbed to a stunning 134ºF (56.7ºC), although many scientists now call that number into question. With more sophisticated and advanced weather tracking devices available today, it seems likely that the 1913 record may not have been quite so high. Whether or not the thermometers used at the time were off by more than 4 degrees is debatable however. Either way, the 1913 record and Sunday’s high temperature were both recorded at the same place in Death Valley, the notoriously hot—and aptly named—Furnace Creek.

For decades, the 1913 record was believed to have been the hottest ever recorded, followed by a reading of 131º F (55ºC) that was taken in Kebili, Tunisia in 1931. But that temperature is now disputed as well, which made the most widely accepted “record” a reading of 129ºF (53.9ºC), which was taken in Death Valley back in 2013. If we use that as our standard by which all other heat waves a measured, Sunday’s temp would now become the new official high.

In a summer where we’ve seen massive heatwaves in Siberia and the Arctic in general, not to mention incredibly warm temperatures across the U.S. and parts of Europe, a new record high temperature in Death Valley seems almost expected. After all, 2020 has already thrown plagues, swarms of locust, violent storms, and a host of other biblical-level disasters. A little fire and brimstone seems like a likely prospect of what would come next.

Kraig Becker