Death Valley Set to Break Its Own Record for Earth’s Hottest Place

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images

Death Valley, California, is expecting a roasting heat wave this July 4th week—and could break its own record for the world’s hottest place within days.

Temperatures will be so blistering that rescue helicopters will not be allowed to fly.

The heat wave currently scorching California is expected to bring exceptionally high temperatures to Death Valley this week. Weather geeks are closely monitoring the situation, hoping to see the mercury rise above 130 degrees Fahrenheit. (At 131 degrees, tender beef like sirloin and ribeye would cook sous vide to medium-rare in two hours).

According to Scientific American, 130 degrees is the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth, a record set in Death Valley in both 2020 and 2021. There was a heat wave in 2023 which did not shatter the record but now the National Weather Service's Las Vegas office, responsible for forecasting in Death Valley, has estimated a 25 per cent chance of hitting 130 degrees on Monday and Tuesday.

Forecaster Brian Planz told SF Gate that the official temperature gauge at Furnace Creek is expected to register around 127 degrees next Monday. However, if the ridge of high pressure causing this heat wave aligns perfectly over the park, temperatures could potentially soar even higher, breaking records.

Death Valley's extreme heat is not just a curiosity but a serious hazard. Exposure to 130-degree temperatures can have severe effects on the human body. At this temperature, the body's cooling mechanisms, primarily sweating, become overwhelmed.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can occur rapidly, leading to symptoms like dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Prolonged exposure can cause the body's core temperature to rise dangerously, potentially resulting in organ failure and death. Additionally, physical contact with superheated surfaces, such as the valley floor, can cause severe burns.

Historically, the World Meteorological Organization recognizes a high of 134 degrees recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913, as the all-time record. However, this measurement, taken by U.S. Weather Bureau observer Oscar Denton, is disputed by many meteorologists due to inconsistencies in his records. Consequently, the 130-degree readings from 2020 and 2021 are often cited as the highest reliably recorded temperatures.

A spokesperson for Death Valley National Park told Vox that many visitors are shocked to learn that “a [rescue] helicopter will not come when it’s above 120 degrees outside. Warm air just doesn’t have as much lift as cool air. So a helicopter gets less lift in extreme temperatures. It seems to be the most effective thing that we can do, other than telling people, ‘Oh, it's hot out there.’”

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