As the western United States sweltered in a massive heat wave, the temperature in Death Valley hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend, during the hottest 24 hours ever recorded on Earth.
The U.S. National Weather Service measured the temperature at Death Valley’s aptly named Furnace Creek on Saturday at 130F, though the reading had not been fully confirmed on Monday.
If confirmed, this would equal the record set at the same place last year and rival slightly higher measurements made more than 100 years ago when equipment was less precise — 134 degrees, the highest maximum temperature ever recorded on Earth, and logged on July 10, 1913, The Washington Post reported.
The heat wave has been intensified by human-caused climate change as it fuels wildfires and prompts widespread health warnings. Scientists were not surprised.
“Despite being astonishing in visceral terms, they are not surprising in scientific terms. They are very much in line with predictions about what will happen in a warming world,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The Guardian. “There is some level of astonishment at the pace at which records have been broken in recent weeks, but in some ways what we have seen in Death Valley — an all-time reliable heat record — is less extraordinary than some of the other records we saw in Canada and the north-west, where records were exceeded by such a large margin that they left people dumbfounded.”
On Sunday another record was set, The Washington Post reported. The day’s low temperature was 107.7, which was the highest ever recorded in North America. But it didn’t stop there, rising to 128.6 by late afternoon. Together the two numbers produced the highest daily average temperature ever observed on Earth, The Washington Post said, at 118.1 degrees.
Heat records are being broken throughout the West, with more than 30 million people under excessive heat alerts, from northern Washington state down to the Arizona/Mexico border, reported CNN.
The Death Valley temperature, however, was 13 degrees above normal.
Healthwise, the high temperatures cause problems because the human body needs to cool down at night, CNN reported, and such high temperatures do not allow for that. This compromises one’s ability to contend with the heat during waking hours.
“Your body requires cooling off at night, and actually expects it while you’re sleeping,” National Weather Service Las Vegas meteorologist Jenn Varian told CNN. “When we have very warm overnight temperatures, your body is simply not able to cool off properly, which in (and) of itself can cause complications, but will set you up to be less prepared for the daytime heat as well.”