Long known as the hottest, lowest and driest place in the United States, Death Valley has now been officially recognized as the hottest spot on the planet.
The World Meteorological Organization has announced that the official highest recorded surface temperature of 56.7° C (134° F) was measured on July 10, 1913 at Greenland Ranch (Death Valley). Full details of the assessment are given in the online issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (http://journals.ametsoc.org/toc/bams/current ).
The WMO Commission of Climatology special international panel of meteorological experts conducted an in-depth investigation of the long-held world-record temperature extreme of 58° C (136.4° F). 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 Sept. 13, 1922. The investigation was conducted for the WMO CCl World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes (http://wmo.asu.edu/ ), the official WMO world meteorology-verified record of weather and climate extremes.
The investigating committee (including experts from Libya, Italy, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Argentina, United States and United Kingdom) identified five major concerns with the 1922 El Azizia temperature extreme record. 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, improperly recorded the observation and was consequently in error by about seven degrees Celsius.
The record reading at Greenland Ranch, now known as Furnace Creek Ranch, occurred during a particularly hot spell from July 8-14, 1913.
It was later described by George H. Wilson of the Weather Bureau as “probably the most remarkable authentic record of high shade temperatures ever made.” During this seven-day period the maximum temperature reached at least 127° F each day, with three days 130° F or above, and never fell below 85° F. Greenland Ranch caretaker and weather observer Oscar Denton reportedly said of that day in 1913, “It was so hot that swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead. When I went out to read the thermometer with a wet Turkish towel on my head, it was dry before I returned.”
The official National Weather Service station at Greenland Ranch/Furnace Creek Ranch was de-commissioned in 1961 when it was moved a quarter-mile north to its current location, at 190 feet below sea level, behind the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
Death Valley National Park was established on Oct. 31, 1994 and is the largest national park in the coterminous United States. The average daily high temperature in Death Valley for August is 113° F (45° C). Death Valley National Park recorded 128° on July 11, 2012, the hottest this year.
Park staff reminds visitors to take precautions for the heat while visiting the park and drink lots of fluids, stay on paved roads, and don’t rely totally on GPS units for directions. Always carry emergency supplies of at least one gallon of water per person in their vehicle.
For more information, call Cheryl Chipman at (760) 786-3207.