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Recognition ceremony planned for world's hottest recorded temperature

July 10, 2013

It would take a special occasion for anyone to head to Death Valley in the middle of July, and Randy Cerveny is no exception to that rule. Cerveny is heading there to take part in a 100th anniversary recognition of the world’s hottest temperature ever recorded.

On July 10, 1913 the weather observer at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, Calif. recorded a high temperature of 134 F (56.7 C), the highest reliably recorded air temperature on Earth. To mark the occasion, Cerveny, an Arizona State University President’s Professor of geographical sciences and urban planning and the rapporteur for climate extremes for the World Meteorological Organization, will be part of a recognition ceremony in the heart of Death Valley.

Joining Cerveny this July 10 will be a host of other weather enthusiasts, including Chris Stachelski and Dan Berc of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, and Christopher Burt of the Weather Underground. While nearly all of the activities will be held indoors (temperatures are expected to reach 118 F), there will be an outside weather observation made at 4 p.m.

“There are a lot of reasons why this is important,” Cerveny said. “First of all, it calls attention to climate change research and it's important to note these records as we lay down what basically are the baseline measurements for years to come. Secondly, there is interest in knowing the engineering factors and stresses placed on buildings and structures that are built in these extreme environments. And third, the general public gets excited about extremes and this is the hottest temperature ever recorded.”

Cerveny adds that weather extremes have only reliably been recorded for the last 150 years or so, making our overall understanding of the extremes a bit spotty at best, and this record has only been the hottest recorded temperature for less than a year.

The Death Valley measurement was not considered the world record until last autumn when some investigative work, initiated by Christopher Burt and led by Cerveny, overturned the previous record of 136.4 F (58 C), recorded on Sept. 13, 1922 in El Azizia, Libya. The group found that there were enough questions surrounding the measurement and how it was made that it was probably inaccurate, overturning the record 90 years to the day it was recorded and making the measurement of July 10, 1913 in Death Valley the record.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     The School of Geographical Studies and Urban Planning is a research unit of ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.