National Park Quiz 61: Heat

What's the hottest temperature ever officially recorded in Death Valley? Bob Janiskee photo.

1. True or False? In a typical year, there are more 100+ degree days in Theodore Roosevelt National Park than there are in Everglades National Park.

2. True or false? Bacteria living in the hot springs at Yellowstone National Park are thermophiles as well as extremophiles.

3. True of false? To reduce the risk of heat injury, Statue of Liberty visitors will be permitted to climb the stairs to the statue’s crown only in the morning hours during the summer months.

4. True or false? In the National Park of American Samoa, the hottest months of the year are October through May.

5. True or false? Current regulations permit national park visitors to “pack heat” by carrying loaded concealed weapons in accordance with state gun laws.

6. True or false? In Yellowstone National Park, alpha female wolves normally come into heat in May or June.

7. True or false? A camper who heats a quart of water to the boiling point on a stove in Cape Hatteras National Seashore uses less propane than she would need if she wanted to do the same thing in Glacier National Park.

8. America’s record high temperature, ____ degrees Fahrenheit, was recorded on July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek in what is now Death Valley National Park.
a. 127
b. 129
c. 131
d. 134

9. If you were to take a “beat the heat” backpacking trip during July in each of the national parks listed below, in which park would you be able to find the coolest conditions?
a. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
b. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
c. Voyageurs National Park
d. Lassen Volcanic National Park

10. Which is an indicator that an individual is suffering from heatstroke and at grave risk of death or severe heat injury?
a. face that appears pale or chalky-white
b. skin that is dry to the touch
c. pulse that is very slow and weak
d. rectal temperature of 101 degrees

Extra Credit Question:

11. Which National Park System unit honors a man who famously said: “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”?

Super Bonus Question:

12. Explain why it is advantageous for a cactus to have a vertical rod-like shape if it is growing in a hot desert.

Super-Duper Bonus Question (counts two points):

13. From time to time, a bold magician entertains an audience with this trick (which you should never try at home!!). The magician brings water to a rolling boil in a heavy iron pot, removes the pot from the fire, places it on the palm of his hand, and holds it there for several seconds while the water continues to boil and the crowd gasps in amazement. Then he calmly puts the pot back on the fire. Explain how the magician is able to do this trick without being burned.


(1) True. Because of its continental interior location, Theodore Roosevelt National Park experiences very strong summer heating and has many more days with temperatures of 100 degrees or above. Days that hot are rare in the Everglades, a watery region located near the ocean.

(2) True. Any organism adapted to living in conditions of extreme temperature, pressure, or chemical concentration is properly classified as an extremophile. A thermophile is an extremophile that has adapted to living in conditions of extreme temperature, such as those found in the hot springs at Yellowstone.

(3) False. There are no such daily schedule restrictions. However, visitors will not be allowed to visit Lady Liberty’s crown if the outside temperature is 90 degrees or higher.

(4) True. The seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, so the cooler months in this Southern Hemisphere park are June through September.

(5) False. The new gun rules are not scheduled to take effect until early next year. For now, the bearing of firearms remain prohibited in most national parks, although citizens may transport unloaded and dismantled or cased firearms and carry firearms while participating in approved hunting programs and under certain other circumstances.

(6) False. A wolf pack’s alpha female comes into heat and breeds in the winter (typically in December) so that her pups will be born in the spring.

(7) False. The boiling point of a liquid varies with atmospheric pressure. The lower the pressure, the lower the boiling point. Since Glacier National Park is at a much higher elevation than Cape Hatteras National seashore, atmospheric pressure is much lower and water boils at a significantly lower temperature. Ergo, less heat is heated to boil the water at Glacier. (And because water boils at a lower temperature at Glacier, it will take longer to cook food in boiling water there.)

(8) d -- Death Valley’s 134 degree reading is just two degrees shy of the world record 136 degrees recorded in 1922 at a meteorological station at El Azizia, Libya. Nevertheless, Furnace Creek consistently has higher summer temperatures than any other place where temperatures are officially recorded (at about five feet above the ground in a louvered instrument shelter). Don’t go barefoot at Furnace Creek. Ground temperatures there typically top150 degrees on summer afternoons.

(9) a – If you were to hike the (very strenuous) trail to the upper slopes of Mauna Loa, a shield volcano that tops out at 13,679 feet above sea level, you’d find temperatures that average about 48 degrees during July and get a good deal chillier than that many nights.

(10) b – Dry, flushed skin is a red flag indicator of very dangerous overheating. It signals that sweating has ceased and the body’s main cooling system, evaporative heat regulation, has shut down. Left untreated, this condition can quickly lead to death or serious injury (including permanent brain damage).

(11) President Harry Truman is credited with that remark, and Missouri’s Harry S. Truman National Historic Site honors him.

(12) The rod-shaped plant exposes a minimal amount of its surface to the sun (scarcely more than its very top) during the time of day when the sun is most nearly overhead and its heating power is greatest. By minimizing surface exposure to the sun, the plant avoids overheating.

(13) The heavy iron pot is the key to this trick. The large mass of iron stores so much heat that it can keep the water boiling vigorously for a short while even after the pot is removed from the fire. As long as the water in that pot continues to boil -- and only while it continues to boil -- it draws heat from its environment (because extra energy is required for the liquid-to-vapor change of state). Being in contact with the pot holding the boiling water, the magician’s hand gets cooler, not hotter. But Lord help the magician if the water stops boiling while his hand’s still under that pot. At that point the pot and its contents would begin cooling and conducting heat to their environment, including his hand. Ouch!

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.