Death Valley reports world's hottest temperature on record in 89 years
Death Valley is the hottest place in the United States, but not very many people live there. Here are some of the hottest places around the country where people like to live.
Death Valley, California was scorched over the weekend when temperatures reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, making it the hottest recorded temperature on Earth since 1931.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will investigate to confirm the temperature reading, which AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor and Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said could take anywhere from weeks to months and sometimes even years.
"The investigations are extensive and involve a committee, looking into instrument trustworthiness and calibration, proper 'siting' -- location of the instruments at proper height, with proper ground covering, sufficient shelter from sunlight and distance away from buildings," Ferrell explained. "They also look at nearby weather stations to compare readings, taking into account localized conditions on the day in question."
In 1931, Tunisia recorded 131 degrees Fahrenheit, surpassing the Death Valley record from Sunday by just one degree. The only higher temperature ever recorded was 134 degrees, also reported in Death Valley from 1913.
The reason for the consistently high temperatures in the valley is due to the low elevation, combined with the surrounding higher elevation. According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist David Samuhel, Death Valley is located below sea level. He explained that the lower the elevation, the higher temperatures tend to be, whereas the higher the elevation, the lower the temperatures.
While the elevation of the actual valley is very low, it is surrounded by sky-high mountains, peaking at 6,000 feet above sea level on both sides. The valley is also extremely narrow -- only about 10 miles across.
Due to thermodynamics, air becomes hotter as it sinks lower, typically at a rate of five to six degrees per 1,000 feet. Because the air in Death Valley has to travel from the high peaks of the mountains all the way down to the depths of the narrow valley, it gets very hot.
Road Side at Desert Death Valley. (Magu Directors / Getty Images)
"The sinking air is more prevalent in Death Valley than just about anywhere else since it is such a low elevation surrounded by very high elevations," Samuhel said.
The sinking air also makes for a very dry environment. A typical year will bring only 2.36 inches of rain to Death Valley, compared to an average of 45 to 50 inches a year on parts of the East Coast.
This year, the monsoon which typically brings moisture to the area has been very weak, resulting in even less rainfall for the Southwest.
The weather pattern responsible for the record-shattering heat in Death Valley was also responsible for a slew of other records west of the Rockies. Samuhel said that every state west of the Rocky Mountain Range, aside from Montana and Wyoming, set a record high temperature for the date on Sunday.
Warning signs of extreme heat danger can be seen around Death Valley, Calif. (Stuart Picton / Getty Images).
Phoenix peaked at 115, Las Vegas at 113, Sacramento, California, at 112 and Tucson, Arizona, at 111, all breaking the record for temperatures that day. For Phoenix and Tucson, 2020 could likely be their hottest August on record.
Moving forward, Samuhel said the heat will persist through the week in Death Valley, with Monday being almost as hot as the record-breaking day. The heat will remain widespread across the West, as well. Next week, however, is when the temperatures will really crank up, particularly in the Southwest.
After a few days nearing 130, Samuhel said it will begin to cool down in Death Valley, and it will not get that hot again for the remainder of the year.
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