Hottest Ever in the United States

July 10, 2012; 9:50 PM ET
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Death Valley Dunes taken by Flickr user John Bruckman on April 10, 2010.

Today marks the anniversary of when Death Valley, Calif., set the all-time record high for not just the United States, but also the Western Hemisphere.

Temperatures in Death Valley (at Greenland Ranch, which is now known as Furnace Creek Ranch) soared to 134 degrees on July 10, 1913.

That date was actually one of five consecutive days when Death Valley recorded a high of 129 degrees or higher.

The high of 134 degrees from 1913 goes beyond the record books of the Western Hemisphere. It is the second hottest temperature ever measured in the world. El Azizia, Libya, sits at the top of that list with a high of 136 degrees on Sept. 13, 1922.

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While a high of 134 degrees is extreme even by Death Valley's standards, blazing heat is not uncommon. The maximum average high temperature in July is 120 degrees, compared to the 106 degrees in Phoenix, Ariz.

Death Valley owes its hot weather to its extremely low elevation (it sits at nearly 300 feet below sea level) and dry climate.

Death Valley averages only 2.33 inches of rain each year, meaning there is hardly ever moisture in the ground, and the sun's energy can be used entirely for heating.

When the sun's energy comes into contact with wet ground, evaporation takes place and reduces the amount of heating that could ultimately take place.

Interestingly, the all-time coldest reading in Death Valley was also set in 1913. Temperatures bottomed out at 15 degrees on Jan. 8 of that year, according to the Death Valley National Park's website.

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