Death Valley to break all-time Earth heat record?

Death Valley: Squares for night, day and night forecasts showing lows in the upper 90s and high on Thursday of 131.
Will Death Valley National Park, which straddles the U.S. states of California and Nevada, break Earth high heat records this week? Image via NOAA/ NWS.

Death Valley on the brink of a new high temperature record?

As of Tuesday night (July 9, 2024), the National Weather Service (NWS) was forecasting a high of 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 C) for Death Valley National Park on Thursday, July 11. Death Valley in the U.S. West is the hottest, driest and lowest of all the U.S. national parks. If the mercury does climb that high there this week, it’ll be the hottest temperature ever reliably measured on planet Earth. The NWS has issued an Excessive Heat Warning through July 12 for the area, which includes the city of Las Vegas, Nevada (population 650,000). The advisory states:

Hot temperatures overnight will mean little relief from the daytime heat, especially in Las Vegas and Death Valley, where low temperatures may not fall below 90 degrees (32 C) for several days.

ABC News reported yesterday that – despite the predictions for extreme heat this week – hundreds of Europeans touring the American West and adventurers from around the U.S. are still flocking to Death Valley National Park this week. The NWS advisory includes precautions for those intending to travel to this area.

Death Valley and its 1913 high temperature record

Death Valley already holds the official world record for highest temperature, at 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 C) on July 10, 1913. However, that measurement is said not to be reliable. In fact, Christopher C. Burt, author of Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book calls the 134 degree record bogus. Burt gives an in-depth explanation for why the world record was actually an observer error at Wunderground.

But the current reliably recorded high temperature on Earth also belongs to Death Valley. In fact, the national park took the title two years in a row. On August 16, 2020, the park hit 129.9 F (54.38 C). Then, the following year, on July 9, 2021, it hit 130 F (54.44 C).

Clearly, Death Valley is no stranger to brutal heat.

Death comes to hikers in the Grand Canyon

Death Valley is far from being the only place feeling the heat this summer. Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona has reported three hikers succumbing to high temperatures within the past month, most recently on July 7. KTNV Las Vegas reported on July 8, 2024:

For the third time in three weeks, a hiker has died at Grand Canyon National Park.

On Sunday, rangers received a call about an unresponsive hiker on the Bright Angel Trail, about 100 feet (30 m) below the Bright Angel Trailhead.

Bystanders started CPR as medical personnel responded from the rim. All attempts to resuscitate the man were unsuccessful and he died.

Park rangers told KTNV that, at the Grand Canyon, in summer, temperatures on exposed parts of the trail can reach over 120 degrees F (48.88 C) in the shade. An alert at the park’s website today (July 10) says:

Excessive Heat Warning! Hiking into the canyon is not advised. Limit outdoor activities between 10 a.m.-5 p.m. to reduce heat risk.

All-time highs across U.S. West in 2024 so far

Other places across the American West have seen all-time high records.

How to stay safe in the heat

The National Weather Service provides the following precautions:

Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors.

Do not leave young children and pets in unattended vehicles. Car interiors will reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.

Take extra precautions when outside. Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing. Try to limit strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Take action when you see symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

To reduce risk during outdoor work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments. Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke is an emergency! Call 911.

Bottom line: The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 131 F (55 C) for Death Valley National Park in California on Thursday. If it reaches that mark, it will be the hottest reliably recorded temperature on Earth.

Read more: Heat dome kills people and animals in Mexico

July 10, 2024

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Kelly Kizer Whitt

View All