The Hottest Day in History?

Record Temps in Death Valley

The Guinness Book of World Records lists July 10th 1913 as the hottest day in human measured history, at 134F. Naturally, the event took place in Death Valley, at the old Greenland Ranch weather station.

A second temperature of 131F was recorded there, and the same temperature is claimed at Kibili in Tunisia in 1931.

But according to Weather Underground historian Christopher Burt, discussing the supposed hottest days in history, “I would assume most people who are meteorologically-oriented would not believe this record.”

In fact, according to Burt – whose work was instrumental in establishing the inauthenticity of a previous Libyan claim to the record – none of these temperatures are actually very likely to be accurate. For a start, Death Valley has never breached 130F again. Secondly, Death Valley was alone in reporting the roasting temperatures on that day. Nearby places like Las Vegas and Blythe were hot – but not record-breakers.

In addition, the wind conditions observed that day would suggest temperatures were actually much cooler. Greenland Ranch’s Oscar Denton, the record-keeper, may have worked hard but as an employee of the Pacific Coast Borax mining company he as no meteorologist.

Today, Burt suspects something may have been wrong with the thermometer. In other areas, questionable record-keeping may be to blame. Even the record that was tied in 2013 – with great scrutiny and care – may be wrong. The 129.2F measured at Death Valley at 4pm on June 29th 2013 (the exact start time of the Darth Valley Challenge) purportedly tied with an Israeli record from 1941, one that Burt feels is also unlikely to be accurate.

Indeed – as he puts it – “One could argue this is the hottest reliably measured temperature on Earth at this point.”

Suddenly that 6:36 in a warm, and rather smelly, Darth Vader suit doesn’t seem quite so bad… 🙂

I hope Mr. Burt is able to prove his theory…

June 29th 2013 wasn’t one of the hottest days on record – it was THE hottest day in history!*


*UPDATE: Since this post, at least two days have exceeded the 129.2F threshold. On August 16th 2020 the temperature hit 129.0F, and on July 9th 2021, it was reliably recorded at 130F – both at Furnace Creek… and yes, I got to run on the record day!