17 August 2020

Did We Break the Planetary Temperature Record Sunday? Probably So!

Posted by Dan Satterfield

We may have broken the Earth’s high-temperature record today. Furnace Creek, California in Death Valley reached 130 degrees(F) today at 3:41PM PDT. This is the first time since 1913 that it’s gotten that hot in Death Valley, and it may NEVER have gotten that hot there.

The World Meteorological Organisation still lists the 134F degrees in Death Valley in July 1913 as the hottest temperature recorded on Earth, but most of my fellow meteorologists do not really think it’s a reliable record. The old record of 136 degrees in Libya can still be found in books and encyclopedias, but that one has long been discounted as not correct. The Death Valley reading of 134 in July 1913 is also likely NOT correct. You can read why in this detailed investigation published on Weather Underground in 2016. There are several 129F readings that are indeed considered accurate (See this piece by Chris Burt who has done a lot of good research into it), so that leaves us with today’s 130-degree temperature in Death Valley, and it seems likely (subject to a NOAA review of the equipment) that we have indeed set a new high temperature for Earth.

Bob Henson author of some of the best books on weather out there told me “It’s quite possible the Death Valley high set a new global heat record. The extreme nature of the surrounding weather pattern makes such a reading plausible, so the case deserves a solid review. There are nagging questions about the validity of even hotter reports from Death Valley in 1913 and Tunisia in 1931. What we can say with high confidence is that, if confirmed, this is the highest temperature observed on Earth in almost a century.”

What is even more remarkable about the heat in Death Valley today is that it’s now mid-August. The sun angle is lower and the days are shorter, making it less likely to see an all-time record high there. I was thinking 128 might be possible when I looked at the pattern last week, but it seems that it managed to go even higher. If you’re thinking that the rising greenhouse gases mean this record will not likely last long, I cannot disagree.

FYI, for those that still consider the hottest spot on Earth to be the line for Dumbo at Disney World in July, I cannot disagree, but that heat is not considered official!

For those who have never been there, I visited Furnace Creek in 2014 and took the photo below of the weather station and Stevenson screen. It was only 117 that day!