California's Death Valley sizzles as brutal heat wave continues (2023)

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Long the hottest place on Earth, Death Valley put a sizzling exclamation point Sunday on a record warm summer that is baking nearly the entire globe by flirting with some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded, meteorologists said.

Temperatures in Death Valley, which runs along part of central California’s border with Nevada, reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.33 degrees Celsius) on Sunday at the aptly named Furnace Creek, the National Weather Service said.

The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 134 F (56.67 C) in July 1913 at Furnace Creek, said Randy Ceverny of the World Meteorological Organization, the body recognized as keeper of world records. Temperatures at or above 130 F (54.44 C) have only been recorded on Earth a handful of times, mostly in Death Valley.

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“With global warming, such temperatures are becoming more and more likely to occur,” Ceverny, the World Meteorological Organization’s records coordinator, said in an email. “Long-term: Global warming is causing higher and more frequent temperature extremes. Short-term: This particular weekend is being driven by a very very strong upper-level ridge of high pressure over the Western U.S.”

California's Death Valley sizzles as brutal heat wave continues (4)

Furnace Creek is an unincorporated community within Death Valley National Park. It’s home to the park’s visitor center, which includes a digital thermometer popular with tourists. On Sunday afternoon, dozens of people gathered at the thermometer — some wearing fur coats as a joke — hoping to snap a picture with a temperature reading that would shock their friends and family.

That digital thermometer hit 130 degrees at one point on Sunday, but it’s not an official reading. The National Weather Service said the highest temperature recorded on Sunday was 128 F (53.3 C) — a high that was unlikely to be surpassed as the sun went down.

A few miles away at Badwater Basin — the lowest point in North America at 282 feet (85.95 meters) below sea level — tourists took selfies and briefly walked along the white salt flats ringed by sandy-colored mountains as wisps of clouds crawled overhead. Meteorologists say that thin cloud cover most likely kept temperatures from reaching potential record highs.

William Cadwallader lives in Las Vegas, where temperatures reached 116 F (46.67 C) on Sunday, nearing the all-time high of 117 degrees. But Cadwallader said he’s been visiting Death Valley during the summer for years just to say he’s been to the hottest place on Earth.

“I just want to go to a place, sort of like Mount Everest, to say, you know, you did it,” he said.

The heat wave is just one part of the extreme weather hitting the U.S. over the weekend. Five people died in Pennsylvania on Saturday when heavy rains caused a sudden flash flood that swept away multiple cars. A 9-month-old boy and a 2-year-old girl remained missing. In Vermont, authorities were concerned about landslides as rain continued after days of flooding.

California's Death Valley sizzles as brutal heat wave continues (5)

Death Valley’s brutal temperatures come amid a blistering stretch of hot weather that has put roughly one-third of Americans under some type of heat advisory, watch or warning. Heat waves are not as visually dramatic as other natural disasters, but experts say they are more deadly. A heat wave in parts of the South and Midwest killed more than a dozen people last month.

Residents in the western U.S. have long been accustomed to extreme temperatures, and the heat appeared to prompt minimal disruptions in California over the weekend. Local governments opened cooling centers for people without access to air conditioning to stay cool. The heat forced officials to cancel horse racing at the opening weekend of the California State Fair as officials urged fair-goers to stay hydrated and seek refuge inside one of the seven air-conditioned buildings.

Temperatures in Phoenix hit 114 F (45.56 C) on Sunday, the 17th consecutive day of 110 degrees or higher. The record is 18 days, set in June 1974. Phoenix is on track to break that record on Tuesday, said Gabriel Lojero, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Heat records are being shattered all over the U.S. South, from California to Florida. But it’s far more than that. It’s worldwide, with devastating heat hitting Europe along with dramatic floods in the U.S. Northeast, India, Japan and China.

For nearly all of July, the world has been in uncharted hot territory, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.

June was also the hottest June on record, according to several weather agencies. Scientists say there is a decent chance that 2023 will go down as the hottest year on record, with measurements going back to the middle of the 19th century.

Death Valley dominates global heat records. In the valley, it’s not only hot, it stays brutally warm.

Here’s the latest for Monday July 17th: More extreme heat across U.S.; Devastating floods in Northeast; Officials in Crimea say Ukraine attacked bridge; Suspect killed in shootout with Georgia authorities.

Some meteorologists have disputed how accurate Death Valley’s 110-year-old hot-temperature record is, with weather historian Christopher Burt disputing it for several reasons, which he laid out in a blog post a few years ago.

The two hottest temperatures on record are the 134 F in 1913 in Death Valley and 131 F (55 C) in Tunisia in July 1931. Burt, a weather historian for The Weather Company, finds fault with both of those measurements and lists 130 F (54.4 C) in July 2021 in Death Valley as his hottest recorded temperature on Earth.

“130 degrees is very rare if not unique,” Burt said.

In July 2021 and August 2020, Death Valley recorded a reading of 130 F (54.4 C), but both are still awaiting confirmation. Scientists have found no problems so far, but they haven’t finished the analysis, NOAA climate analysis chief Russ Vose said.

There are other places similar to Death Valley that may be as hot, such as Iran’s Lut Desert, but like Death Valley are uninhabited so no one measures there, Burt said. The difference was someone decided to put an official weather station in Death Valley in 1911, he said.

A combination of long-term human-caused climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is making the world hotter by the decade, with ups and downs year by year. Many of those ups and downs are caused by the natural El Nino and La Nina cycle. An El Nino cycle, the warming of part of the Pacific that changes the world’s weather, adds even more heat to the already rising temperatures.

Scientists such as Vose say that most of the record warming the Earth is now seeing is from human-caused climate change, partly because this El Nino only started a few months ago and is still weak to moderate. It isn’t expected to peak until winter, so scientists predict next year will be even hotter than this year.


Borenstein reported from Washington and Beam reported from Sacramento, California.


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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


What is the hottest Death Valley California has ever been? ›

On July 10, 1913, Oscar Denton, a U.S. Weather Bureau observer stationed at Greenland Ranch, in Death Valley, California, claimed the mercury hit an astonishing 134 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature ever recorded in the United States.

What is the hottest temperature a human can survive? ›

The theorised human survival limit of 35°C wet bulb temperature represents 35°C of dry heat as well as 100 percent humidity – or 46°C at 50 percent humidity.

What is the extreme heat danger in Death Valley? ›

The warning signs as you enter Death Valley are clear. "Dangerous heat" and "heat kills" are blunt messages to visitors who come to experience the hottest place on earth. Yet this week a man died after being overcome by the scorching temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius.

Why does Death Valley California get so hot? ›

Why Is It So Hot in Death Valley? Furnace Creek, home of the Death Valley National Park Visitor's Center where the official temperature reading is taken, is roughly 190 feet below sea level. Since air warms as it descends, that extra elevation plunge adds extra heat.

Is Death Valley the hottest place in the United States? ›

Why does it get so hot in Death Valley? The driest place in North America and the hottest on Earth, Death Valley is a long and narrow basin 282 feet (86 m) below sea level and yet it is walled up with rather steep mountain ranges, according to the park services website.

Is Death Valley the hottest desert in the US? ›

Death Valley is famous as the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The world record highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C) was recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. Summer temperatures often top 120°F (49°C) in the shade with overnight lows dipping into the 90s°F (mid-30s°C.)

What temperature humans Cannot survive? ›

Scientists have identified the maximum mix of heat and humidity a human body can survive. Even a healthy young person will die after enduring six hours of 35-degree Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) warmth when coupled with 100 percent humidity, but new research shows that threshold could be significantly lower.

Can humans survive 150 degrees? ›

You might be wondering about how much external heat a person can tolerate. Live Science writes that most humans can endure about 10 minutes in 140–degree heat before suffering from hyperthermia, a lethal form of which is the aforementioned heat stroke.

Can humans survive 300 degrees? ›

If the humidity is low, humans can endure even hotter temperatures. In a burning building or a deep mine, adults have survived 10 minutes at 300 degrees. Children, however, cannot withstand such temperatures, and 120-degree cars can be deadly in just minutes.

Does anyone live in Death Valley California? ›

More than 300 people live year-round in Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth. Here's what it's like. With average daytime temperatures of nearly 120 degrees in August, Death Valley is one of the hottest regions in the world.

How hot is Death Valley in July 2023? ›

Astonishingly, Death Valley's Badwater Basin, after peaking Sunday at a temperature of 53.6 degrees Celsius (128.5°F), cooled off remarkably slowly overnight, recording a temperature of 48.9 degrees Celsius (120°F) between midnight and 1 a.m. local time, a unique occurrence in world climate history, according to a ...

How hot did Death Valley get 2023? ›

Temperatures in Death Valley, which runs along part of central California's border with Nevada, reached 128F (53.3C) on Sunday at the aptly named Furnace Creek, the National Weather Service said.

Is anything hotter than Death Valley? ›

But when it comes to surface temperature, two spots have Death Valley beat. A new analysis of high-resolution satellite data finds the Lut Desert in Iran and the Sonoran Desert along the Mexican-U.S. border have recently reached a sizzling 80.8°C (177.4°F).

Is Death Valley Hotter Than Las Vegas? ›

After all, Las Vegas, renowned for its heat, is in the southern part of the state. Meanwhile, Death Valley National Park creeps along the border to the west of the state. Furnace Creek in Death Valley experienced the hottest air temperature ever recorded in the country, and possibly the world.

Do any animals live in Death Valley? ›

Life in Death Valley

Coyotes, ravens, roadrunners, ground squirrels and lizards are the most commonly seen wildlife of the region, but there are many species who thrive here, hidden or unnoticed by visitors.

How hot did Death Valley get in 2023? ›

Saratoga Spring, located at the south end of Death Valley National Park at an elevation of 198 feet, was the hottest location on Sunday, reporting the sixth-hottest reliably measured temperature in world history: 53.9 degrees Celsius (129°F).

Is Death Valley too hot to live in? ›

Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth, baking in temperatures of more than 120°F (49°C) during the summer. Aside from the heat, Death Valley is also home to numerous horrifying scorpions, tarantulas and venomous sidewinder snakes that silently lurk in the Californian desert.

Is Death Valley hotter than Phoenix? ›

Look up your city to see extreme heat risks near you. The 102.7-degree July average in Phoenix surpassed readings ever observed at any weather stations nationwide, except for the inhospitable Death Valley, Calif., which is considered the hottest location in the world.

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