Heat record ‘like being in an oven’

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A recently recorded air temperature of 54.4 degrees detected in California’s Death Valley National Park could be the hottest temperature recorded on Earth in at least 89 years.

The US National Weather Service’s (NWS) automatic observation station at Furnace Creek recorded the preliminary heat record at 3.41pm Sunday, local time.

Humidity was only 7 per cent, but NWS Las Vegas bureau meteorologist Daniel Berc told Reuters it was still “insanely hot”.

“It‘s literally like being in an oven,” he said.

A road through Death Valley is not one you want to take without airconditioning. Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP
media_cameraA road through Death Valley is not one you want to take without airconditioning. Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

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Furnace Creek is a popular tourist attraction but only a few dozen people live there.

It’s the lowest, driest, and hottest place in the US, 58 metres below sea level in the Mojave Desert.

The temperature still needs to be verified by the World Meteorological Organisation and this includes testing the observation station to make sure its thermometers are working correctly.

Preliminary investigations have indicated the observation station was working as intended.

The sensor that recorded an extreme temperature on Sunday in California's Death Valley. Picture: Handout / US National Weather Service / AFP
media_cameraThe sensor that recorded an extreme temperature on Sunday in California’s Death Valley. Picture: Handout / US National Weather Service / AFP

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If verified it would be the hottest temperature officially recorded since July 1913 (though there are disputes about that recording, with a temperature of 56.7 degrees also recorded at Furnace Creek possibly being the result of observer error).

In 1931, Tunisia recorded Africa’s hottest temperature of 55 degrees, though there are also doubts around that recording too.

The US is in the midst of a heatwave in the west of the country, forcing rolling blackouts to conserve energy and warnings of terrifying “fire tornadoes” as wildfires rage in California and Nevada.

Last decade was the world’s hottest and driest ever recorded, coming after around four decades of scientists repeated warnings about climate change raising global temperatures to unsustainable levels.

In Australia, last year was the hottest and driest on record, a year that was capped off with a devastating season of bushfires.

Originally published as Hottest temperature on Earth recorded