Where’s the hottest place on Earth?

13 09 2012

For 90 years the location of the hottest recorded temperature on Earth has been firmly fixed as El Azizia in Libya – which recorded a scorching 58 °C (136.4 °F) on this very day in 1922.

It has always been a topic of hot debate, if you’ll excuse the pun, as concerns persisted over whether the record reading was accurate.

So seriously were these concerns taken that the World Meteorological Organization convened a team of international experts to investigate. Met Office scientists played a part by using what’s known as a climate reanalysis of the historic day in 1922. This used a computer model to simulate what the atmosphere was doing by using information on air pressure, sea temperatures, volcanic dust and carbon dioxide concentrations, and a host of other factors.

David Parker, a Met Office scientist involved in using the reanalysis, said: “This used no land-station air temperature data and the results were therefore independent of the El Azizia observations. We calculated air temperatures at the surface and higher up were nowhere near high enough to support the Al Azizia record.”

All the evidence was weighing up against the record, and today the WMO committee have announced their verdict – the long standing record is invalid.

They concluded it was most likely that a new and inexperienced observer improperly recorded the observation, which was in error by about seven degrees Celsius.

This means that Death Valley National Park in California, USA, now officially holds the record as the world’s hottest place with a temperature of 56.7 °C (134 °F) on 10 July 1913.

Professor Randall Cerveny, Rapporteur of Climate and Weather extremes for the WMO, said: “This investigation demonstrates that, because of continued improvements in meteorology and climatology, climate experts can now reanalyze past weather records in much more detail than ever before.

“The end result is an even better set of climate data for analysis of important global and regional questions involving climate variability and change.”

Of course, Death Valley’s record could be beaten at any time – but there will no doubt be thorough checks on any new records. And one other point to bear in mind is that there aren’t weather stations everywhere on the planet, so there may be somewhere hotter – there is just no evidence to prove it!


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