Highest temperature recorded on Earth
The highest temperature recorded on Earth has been measured in three major ways: air, ground, and via satellite observation. The former of the three is used as the standard measurement due to persistent issues with unreliable ground and satellite readings. Air measurements are noted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Guinness World Records among others as the standard to be used for determining the official record. The current official highest registered air temperature on Earth is 56.7 °C (134.1 °F), recorded on 10 July 1913 at Furnace Creek Ranch, in Death Valley in the United States. For ninety years, a former record that was measured in Libya had been in place, until it was decertified in 2012 based on evidence that it was an erroneous reading. This finding has since raised questions about the legitimacy of the 1913 record measured in Death Valley, with several meteorological experts asserting that there were similar irregularities. The WMO has stood by the record as official pending any future investigative results. If the current record were to be decertified then the holder would be a tie at 54.0 °C (129.2 °F), recorded both at Furnace Creek, and in Kuwait.
Several unverified temperatures of all three readings have also been recorded that exceed the current record holder. These include historical claims that were never authenticated due to the equipment available at the time and unverified scientific claims. There are also disproven amateur readings that have been posted on social media showing evidence of extreme temperature.
The standard measuring conditions for temperature are in the air, 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above the ground, and shielded from direct sunlight. Global surface temperatures as a whole have been monitored since the 1880s when record keeping began. 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 Death Valley in the United States, on 10 July 1913. This record was surpassed in 1922 by a reading of 57.8 °C (136.0 °F), registered on 13 September 1922, in ‘Aziziya, Libya. Ninety years later, this record was decertified, making the former reading in Death Valley the World's highest official temperature again. The decertification of the former record in Libya has since cast doubt on the validity of the 1913 recording. If the 1913 record were to be decertified, the highest established recorded air temperature on Earth would be 54.0 °C (129.2 °F), also recorded in Death Valley on 20 June 2013, and in Mitribah, Kuwait on 21 July 2016. There have since been higher readings of 54.4 °C (129.9 °F) in August 2020 and July 2021, both at Furnace Creek, that are pending validation.
Measurements have also been taken in two other ways via ground and satellite readings. Temperatures measured directly on the ground may exceed air temperatures by 30 to 50 °C (54 to 90 °F). The theoretical maximum possible ground surface temperature has been estimated to be between 90 and 100 °C (194 and 212 °F) for dry, darkish soils of low thermal conductivity. While there is no highest confirmed ground temperature, a reading of 93.9 °C (201.0 °F) was allegedly recorded in Furnace Creek Ranch on 15 July 1972. Temperature measurements via satellite also tend to capture the occurrence of higher records but, due to complications involving the satellite's altitude loss (a side effect of atmospheric friction), these measurements are often considered less reliable than ground-positioned thermometers. 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.
In the early 21st century, prior recordings for the highest temperature on Earth were investigated as probable misreadings. From 1922 until 2012, the WMO record for the highest official temperature on Earth was 57.8 °C (136.0 °F), registered on 13 September 1922, in ‘Aziziya, Libya. This record was decertified by the WMO in January 2012 as persuasive evidence led to a faulty reading recorded in error by an inexperienced observer. The decertification of this former record led researchers to also investigate the former and current recording made in Death Valley in 1913. One of the earliest objections came in 1949 by Dr. Arnold Court, who came to the conclusion that the temperature may have been the result of a sandstorm that occurred at the time. Court stated that "such a storm may have caused superheated surface materials to hit upon the temperature in the shelter." Modern weather historians such as Christopher C. Burt and William Taylor Reid have also claimed that the 1913 Death Valley reading is "a myth", and is at least 2.2 to 2.8 °C (4 to 5 °F) too high. The WMO has come out in support of the current record stating that "We accept that Death Valley temperature extreme record. Obviously, if any new materials on it surface, we will be prepared to open an investigation, but at this time all available evidence points to its legitimacy."
The following are unverified claims of extreme heat over the current world record of 56.7 °C (134.1 °F). These include historical claims that were never authenticated due to the equipment available at the time and unverified scientific claims. Amateur readings have also been done through social media that claimed extreme temperatures which were later discredited. Videos were posted in one instance that allegedly showed street lights melting or trees bursting into flames. These were later disproven by meteorologists who tied the "evidence" to other unrelated prior events that had taken place. All of the recordings listed before 1972 were allegedly caused by a sudden localized increase in air temperature near the surface, known as a heat burst.
|11 July 1909||57.8 °C (136 °F)||Air||Cherokee, Oklahoma
|This incident was recorded at 3:00 am (CT), and reportedly caused crops to desiccate in the area.|
|6 July 1949||70 °C (158 °F)||Air||Figueira da Foz, Coimbra
|Within two minutes, a heat burst reportedly drove the air temperature from 38 °C (100 °F) to 70 °C (158 °F).|
|1960||60 °C (140 °F)||Air||Kopperl, Texas
|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.|
|6 July 1966||58.5 °C (137.3 °F)||Air||San Luis RC, Sonora
|Mexican news agencies according to state archives.|
|6 July 1966||60 °C (140.0 °F)||Air||Mexicali, BC
|An archived note from the Baja California State Meteorologic Agency claims a temperature of 58.5 °C. was recorded at San Luis, Sonora by a local meteorological agency (entry above). During the same day, another measurement was taken in the "El riito" community in Mexicali. This measurement was never completed as the reading stopped at 60 °C due to limitations of the thermometer used.|
|June 1967||86.7 °C (188.1 °F)||Unknown||Abadan
|An alleged temperature of 86.7 °C (188.1 °F) was recorded during a heat burst in Abadan, Iran.|
|15 July 1972||93.9 °C (201.0 °F)||Ground||Furnace Creek Ranch
|See "History" section above.|
|2005||70.7 °C (159.3 °F)||Satellite||Lut Desert
|See "History" section above.|
|2008||66.8 °C (152.2 °F)||Satellite||Flaming Mountains
|This reading was measured in the Flaming Mountains of China in 2008.|
|2011||84 °C (183 °F)||Ground||Port Sudan
|A ground temperature of 84 °C (183 °F) was reportedly taken in Port Sudan, Sudan.|
|May 2021||80.8 °C (177.4 °F)||Satellite||Lut Desert, (Iran) &
Sonoran Desert, (Mexico)
|Case studies published in May 2021 by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.|
- Desert climate
- Heat wave
- Highest temperatures ever recorded
- Lowest temperature recorded on Earth
- Lowest temperatures ever recorded
- Orders of magnitude (temperature)
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