How hot can it get at Death Valley? Why, there was a day back in 1913 when it was so hot that "swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead."
At least that was the spin Oscar Denton, at the time the caretaker of the Greenland Ranch that today is known as the Furnace Creek Ranch, put on the 134-degree Fahrenheit temperature that now is officially recognized as the hottest ever recorded on the planet's surface.
"When I went out to read the thermometer with a wet Turkish towel on my head, it was dry before I returned," Mr. Denton said in describing just how hot it was on July 10, 1913.
Death Valley, home to Death Valley National Park, long has been recognized for its searing summer heat, and it's lack of rain. And now it's being recognized for witnessing the highest temperature recorded on Earth in the last 150 years or so.
The World Meteorological Organization's Commission of Climatology special international panel of meteorological experts recently evaluated past claims that the highest surface temperature recorded on Earth -- 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit -- came on September 13, 1922, from El Azizia in present-day Libya. The investigation was conducted for the World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes, the official WMO world meteorology-verified record of weather and climate extremes.
According to a National Park Service release, "the investigating committee, which included experts from Libya, Italy, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Argentina, the United States, and the United Kingdom, identified five major concerns with the 1922 El Azizia temperature extreme record. The WMO evaluation committee concluded that the most compelling scenario for the 1922 event was that a new and inexperienced observer, not trained in the use of an unsuitable replacement instrument, improperly recorded the observation and was consequently in error by about 7 degrees Celsius."
The record 134-degree reading at Greenland Ranch came during a hot spell from July 8-14, 1913. It was later described by George H. Wilson of the Weather Bureau as "probably the most remarkable authentic record of high shade temperatures ever made."
During this seven-day period, the Park Service notes, the maximum temperature reached at least 127°F each day, with three days 130°F or above, and never fell below 85°F.
To better understand how this change came about, check out the following 5:34-minute video:
The official National Weather Service station at Greenland Ranch/Furnace Creek Ranch was decommissioned in 1961 when it was moved a quarter-mile north to its current location at 190 feet below sea level behind the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
While it still gets hot in Death Valley -- the average daily high temperature in the park for August is 113° F -- the hottest it got in the park this year was 128 degrees on July 11, a temperature Mr. Denton might have found a tad more tolerable.