Highest temperature recorded on Earth

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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 in Furnace Creek Ranch, California, located in the Death Valley desert in the United States, on 10 July 1913.[1] 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 a number of meteorological experts asserting that there were similar irregularities with the 1913 readings. If the 1913 readings were to be decertified, the highest verified recorded air temperature on Earth would be 54.4 °C (129.9 °F), recorded at Death Valley's Furnace Creek on 16 Aug 2020 (currently pending validation).


Air and ground temperature[edit]

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.[2] 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 10 July 1913,[1][3][4] but the validity of this record is challenged as possible problems with the reading have since been discovered.[5] One of these was noted as early as 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."[1][6] 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.[7][8]

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.[9] On 16 Aug 2020 a temperature of 54.4 °C (129.9 °F) was recorded at Furnace Creek. The reading is pending validation.[10][11]

These questions regarding the current record may be linked to a previous record that had held for 90 years. 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. 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] 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."[4]

Temperatures measured directly on the ground may exceed air temperatures by 30 to 50 °C.[12] 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.[13] While there is no highest confirmed ground temperature, a reading of 93.9 °C (201 °F) was allegedly recorded in Furnace Creek Ranch on 15 July 1972.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[12]

Unverified claims[edit]

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.[17]

Date Temperature °C/°F Type Cause Location Description
11 July 1909 57.8 °C (136 °F) Air Heat burst Cherokee, Oklahoma
(United States)
This incident was recorded at 3:00 am (CT), and reportedly caused crops to desiccate in the area.[18]
6 July 1949 70 °C (158 °F) Air Heat burst 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).[19][20]
1960 60 °C (140 °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.[21]
6 July 1966 58.5 °C (137.3 °F) Air Heat burst San Luis RC, Sonora
Mexican news agencies according to state archives.[22][23]
6 July 1966 60 °C (140.0 °F) Air Heat burst Mexicali, BC
Baja California State Meteorologic Agency archives cite a newspaper note for San Luis, Sonora at 58.5 °C; on the same day, the local meteorological agency, using its own equipment, measured that same day a temperature for "El riito" community in Mexicali a top of[clarification needed] 60 °C and stopped there because of the limitations of the thermometer used.[22]
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.[20]
15 July 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.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "World: Highest Temperature". wmo.asu.edu. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  2. ^ Mildrexler, David J.; Zhao, Maosheng; Running, Steven W. (2011). "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.
  3. ^ "NCDC Global measured extremes". Archived from the original on 27 September 2002. Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Highest recorded temperature". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  5. ^ Samenow, Jason (25 October 2016). "New analysis shreds claim that Death Valley recorded Earth's highest temperature in 1913". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  6. ^ El Fadli, Khalid I.; Cerveny, Randall S.; Burt, Christopher C.; Eden, Philip; Parker, David; Brunet, Manola; Peterson, Thomas C.; Mordacchini, Gianpaolo; Pelino, Vinicio; Bessemoulin, Pierre; Stella, José Luis; Driouech, Fatima; Wahab, M. M. Abdel; Pace, Matthew B. (2013). "World Meteorological Organization Assessment of the Purported World Record 58°C Temperature Extreme at El Azizia, Libya (13 September 1922)". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 94 (2): 199–204. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00093.1.
  7. ^ "Doubts Cloud Death Valley's 100-year Heat Record". Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  8. ^ "Death Valley's 134F Record Temperature Study Part One". Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  9. ^ Samenow, Jason (25 October 2016). "New analysis shreds claim that Death Valley recorded Earth's highest temperature in 1913". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  10. ^ Graham Readfearn (17 August 2020). "Death Valley temperature rises to 54.4C – possibly the hottest ever reliably recorded". Guardian.
  11. ^ León, Concepción de; Schwartz, John (17 August 2020). "Death Valley Just Recorded the Hottest Temperature on Earth". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  12. ^ a b Mildrexler, David J.; Zhao, Maosheng; Running, Steven W. (2011). "Satellite Finds Highest Land Skin Temperatures on Earth". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 2011: 855–860 [855–857]. Bibcode:2011BAMS...92..855M. doi:10.1175/2011BAMS3067.1.
  13. ^ Garratt, J. R. (1992). "Extreme Maximum Land Surface Temperatures". Journal of Applied Meteorology. 31: 1096–1105. Bibcode:1992JApMe..31.1096G. doi:10.1175/1520-0450(1992)031<1096:EMLST>2.0.CO;2.
  14. ^ Kubecka, Paul (2001). "A possible world record maximum natural ground surface temperature". Weather. 56: 218–221. Bibcode:2001Wthr...56..218K. doi:10.1002/j.1477-8696.2001.tb06577.x..
  15. ^ "How accurate are satellite measured temperatures of the troposphere?". AccuWeather. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  16. ^ Mildrexler, David J. (July 2011). "Satellite Finds Highest Land Skin Temperatures on Earth". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 92: 855–860. Bibcode:2011BAMS...92..855M. doi:10.1175/2011BAMS3067.1. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  17. ^ Dan Evon (7 August 2017). "62°C Temperatures in Kuwait Cause Trees to Burst into Flames?". Snopes. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ "08 Jul 1949 - PORTUGAL IN'GRIP OF HEAT WAVE - Trove". Nla.gov.au. 8 July 1949. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  20. ^ a b Burt, Christopher C. (2004). Extreme Weather: A Guide & Record Book. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 36. ISBN 978-0393330151.
  21. ^ Petricic, Dusan (2000). "It's Raining Eels: A Compendium of Weird Weather". Scientific American Presents: 54–55. ISSN 1048-0943.
  22. ^ a b "El lugar más caliente de la Tierra es Mexicali, Baja California". La Crónica de Chihuahua. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  23. ^ Press, Europa (6 July 2016). "Hace 50 años México registró la temperatura más alta de la historia". www.notimerica.com. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  24. ^ Table 9.2, p. 158, Dryland Climatology, Sharon E. Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 1139500244.