Highest temperature recorded on Earth

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The Death Valley, the location of the highest recording

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the highest registered air temperature on Earth was 56.7 °C (134.1 °F) in Furnace Creek Ranch, California, located in the Death Valley desert in the United States, on July 10, 1913.[1][2][3] The WMO itself admits that "[a]fter examining the temperature record in detail, [it was] noted that this temperature may be the result of a sandstorm that occurred at the time. Such a storm may have caused superheated surface materials to hit upon the temperature in the shelter" - what would mean the recording did not refer to air temperature.[1] Weather historians such as Christopher C. Burt also claim that the 1913 Death Valley reading is "a myth", and is at least 4 to 5 °F (2.2 to 2.8 °C) too high.[4] This same conclusion has also been reached by historians Dr. Arnold Court and William Taylor Reid.[5][3] If the 1913 record were to be decertified, the highest recorded air temperature on Earth would be 54.0 °C (129.2 °F), recorded both in Death Valley on June 20, 2013, and in Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21, 2016.[6]


Air and ground temperature[edit]

The standard measuring conditions for temperature are in the air, 1.5 meters above the ground, and shielded from direct sunlight.[7] From 1922 until 2012, the WMO record for the highest official temperature on Earth was 57.8 °C (136.0 °F), registered on September 13, 1922 in ‘Aziziya, Libya. In January 2012, the WMO decertified the 1922 record, citing persuasive evidence that it was a faulty reading recorded in error by an inexperienced observer. [1] Temperatures measured directly on the ground may exceed air temperatures by 30 to 50 °C.[8] The theoretical maximum possible ground surface temperature has been estimated to be between 90 and 100 °C (between 194 and 212 °F) for dry, darkish soils of low thermal conductivity.[9] While there is no highest confirmed ground temperature, a reading of 93.9 °C (201 °F) was allegedly recorded in Furnace Creek Ranch on July 15, 1972.[10]

Satellite measurements[edit]

Temperature measurements via satellite also tend to capture occurrence of higher records but, due to complications involving satellite's altitude loss (a side effect of atmospheric friction), these measurements are often considered less reliable than ground-positioned thermometers.[11] The highest recorded temperature taken by a satellite is 66.8 °C (152.2 °F), which was measured in the Flaming Mountains of China in 2008.[12] Other satellite measurements of ground temperature taken between 2003 and 2009, taken with the MODIS infrared spectroradiometer on the Aqua satellite, found a maximum temperature of 70.7 °C (159.3 °F), which was recorded in 2005 in the Lut Desert, Iran. The Lut Desert was also found to have the highest maximum temperature in 5 of the 7 years measured (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009). These measurements reflect averages over a large region and so are lower than the maximum point surface temperature.[8]

Unverified claims[edit]

The following are unverified claims of extreme heat over the current world record of 56.7 °C (134.1 °F).

Date Temperature °C/°F Type Cause Location Description
July 11, 1909 57.8 °C (136.0 °F) Air Heat burst Cherokee, Oklahoma
(United States)
This incident was recorded at 3:00AM (CT), and reportedly caused crops to desiccate in the area.[13]
July 6, 1949 70 °C (158.0 °F) Air Heat burst Figueira da Foz, Coimbra
Within two minutes, a heat burst reportedly drove the air temperature from 38 to 70 °C (100.4 to 158.0 °F).[14][15]
1960 60 °C (140.0 °F) Air Heat burst Kopperl, Texas
(United States)
A heat burst is claimed to have sent the air temperature to near 140 °F (60 °C), supposedly causing cotton crops to become desiccated and drying out vegetation.[16]
June 1967 86.7 °C (188.1 °F) Unknown Heat burst Abadan
An alleged temperature of 86.7 °C (188.1 °F) was recorded during a heat burst in Abadan, Iran.[15]
July 15, 1972 93.9 °C (201.0 °F) Ground N/A Furnace Creek Ranch
(United States)
See "Measurements" section above.
2005 70.7 °C (159.3 °F) Satellite N/A Lut Desert
See "Measurements" section above.
2008 66.8 °C (152.2 °F) Satellite N/A Flaming Mountains
See "Measurements" section above.
2011 84 °C (183 °F) Ground N/A Port Sudan
A ground temperature of 84 °C (183 °F) was reportedly taken in Port Sudan, Sudan.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c World: Highest Temperature Archived 2017-07-14 at the Wayback Machine. World Meteorological Organization Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  2. ^ "NCDC Global measured extremes". Archived from the original on 27 September 2002. Retrieved 6 November 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "Highest recorded temperature". Guinness World Records. Retrieved August 20, 2018. 
  4. ^ "Doubts Cloud Death Valley's 100-year Heat Record". Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Death Valley's 134F Record Temperature Study Part One". Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Samenow, Jason (October 25, 2016). "New analysis shreds claim that Death Valley recorded Earth's highest temperature in 1913". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 January 2018. 
  7. ^ Mildrexler, David J.; Zhao, Maosheng; Running, Steven W. "Satellite Finds Highest Land Skin Temperatures on Earth". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 2011: 855–860. Bibcode:2011BAMS...92..855M. doi:10.1175/2011BAMS3067.1. 
  8. ^ a b Mildrexler, David J.; Zhao, Maosheng; Running, Steven W. "Satellite Finds Highest Land Skin Temperatures on Earth". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 2011: 855–860 [855–857]. doi:10.1175/2011BAMS3067.1. 
  9. ^ Extreme Maximum Land Surface Temperatures, J. R. Garratt, Journal of Applied Meteorology, 31, #9 (September 1992), pp. 1096–1105, doi:10.1175/1520-0450(1992)031<1096:EMLST>2.0.CO;2
  10. ^ A possible world record maximum natural ground surface temperature, Paul Kubecka, Weather, 56, #7 (July 2001), Weather, pp. 218-221, doi:10.1002/j.1477-8696.2001.tb06577.x.
  11. ^ "How accurate are satellite measured temperatures of the troposphere?". AccuWeather. Retrieved 26 May 2018. 
  12. ^ "Satellite Finds Highest Land Skin Temperatures on Earth". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 92: 855–860. July 2011. doi:10.1175/2011BAMS3067.1. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  13. ^ Isaac M. Cline, Climatological Data for July, 1909: District No. 7. Lower Mississippi Valley, p 337-338; http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-toc&issn=1520-0493&volume=37&issue=7 Monthly Weather Review July 1909
  14. ^ "08 Jul 1949 - PORTUGAL IN'GRIP OF HEAT WAVE - Trove". Nla.gov.au. 1949-07-08. Retrieved 2017-09-15. 
  15. ^ a b Burt, Christopher C. (2004). Extreme Weather: A Guide & Record Book. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 36. ISBN 978-0393330151. 
  16. ^ Petricic, Dusan (2000). "It's Raining Eels: A Compendium of Weird Weather". Scientific American Presents: 54–55. ISSN 1048-0943. 
  17. ^ Table 9.2, p. 158, Dryland Climatology, Sharon E. Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 1139500244.