Record Centenary

Thursday 04th Jul 2013 by theWeather Club

On 10th July 1913 the weather observer at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, California recorded a temperature of 56.7°C (134°F), which is the highest reliably recorded air temperature on Earth. And on Wednesday 10th July 2013 the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley is hosting a centenary celebration to commemorate this event.

The centenary event will look at just what makes Death Valley the hottest place on earth and give those attending an opportunity to experience the extreme conditions with current daily temperatures in Death Valley soaring close to that record during the extreme heatwave affecting California.

There is quite a lot of debate around the highest temperature record. The previous record of 58°C, measured at El Azizia, Libya on 13th September 1922, had been under review by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and in September 2012 they concluded that this all-time heat record was invalid. The WMO Commission of Climatology (CCI) special international panel of meteorological experts (including members from Libya, Italy, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Argentina, United States, and United Kingdom) conducted an in-depth investigation spread over two years. They identified five major concerns with the 1922 El Azizia temperature 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 and (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 by about 7°C. Based on these concerns, the WMO CCl World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes has rejected the 58ºC temperature extreme measured at El Azizia in 1922. The full evaluation is published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Consequently, the WMO assessment is that the official highest recorded surface temperature of 56.7°C measured in Death Valley on 10th July 1913. After examining this temperature record in detail, it was noted that this might be the result of a sandstorm that occurred at the time. Such a storm may have lifted superheated surface materials into the air close to the thermometer.

To find out more about this centenary event visit