What Was the Hottest Temperature Ever Recorded? Death Valley California Nears Record Heat

The mercury is showing no mercy in Death Valley as speculation builds, along with the temperature, over whether the bone-dry landscape will witness the hottest day ever.

Even by the standards of the aptly named Furnace Creek where the numbers are measured, it has been hotter than usual for this time of year.

After hitting 126 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday, the sun had more in store for the Mojave Desert location in southeastern California on Friday.

At 130 degrees (54.4 C) registered at 4.54 p.m. PT, the temperature got to within touching distance of the world record of 134 degrees, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Las Vegas.

This is around 13 degrees hotter than the average for July, as a third massive heatwave makes itself felt in the western United States.

Death Valley National Park
Signage warns of extreme heat danger at Badwater Basin inside Death Valley National Park on June 17, 2021 in Inyo County, California. The temperature has hit record levels for the time of year. PATRICK T. FALLON/Getty

Pending ratification by the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Friday's sizzle would be the third-hottest temperature ever recorded and there is also the prospect of it going further up the rankings.

This is because doubt hovers like a desert haze over the veracity of the existing world record which was registered more than a century ago.

Developments in meteorology and climatology mean that climate experts can now re-analyze past weather records in more detail. As such, the WMO disqualified in 2012 a reading of 136.4 degrees F (58 C) in El Azizia, Libya, which had been recorded in 1922.

It also means that the latest 130-degree measurements, if validated, may be the highest reliably measured temperatures ever observed.

A quirk of topography has made Death Valley the hottest place on earth. Badwater sits at 282 feet below sea level and its location, the lowest in North America, is surrounded by high mountains, such as Telescope Peak.

As the Weather Channel notes, already hot desert air sinks down the mountain tops and compresses as it goes into the valley, where it warms up even further and dries out.

Meanwhile, the winds that flow perpendicular to the valley act like a duvet above, enabling the land to bake temperatures that can parch throats and fry eggs.

In addition, with only two inches of rain a year, umbrella salesmen would not be advised to set up business in North America's driest spot adding to a recipe of extreme heat that has kept Death Valley at the top of the temperature charts.

This weekend, the NWS, which Newsweek has contacted for comment, predicted a "one in four" chance that another 130-degree reading could be recorded, although it tweeted that the heat "likely" won't be reaching the disputed world record, which Death Valley currently holds.

That mark is ahead of the second-place reading of 131 degrees recorded in Kebili, Tunisia from July 1931.

With summer not yet done, there will still be anticipation over whether the world record mark of 134 degrees (56.7 C), recorded on 10 July 1913 at Death Valley's Greenland Ranch, will be beaten.