Death Valley would break the world temperature record… and tourists want to witness it

As uninviting as it sounds, California’s Death Valley National Park beckons for those who want to experience something unusual: the possible highest temperature recorded on Earth that would register this sunday according to meteorologists in the United States.

The United States National Weather Service (NWS) has predicted that Death Valley will hit 131 °F (55 °C) in one season near the national park’s Furnace Creek visitor center, which would mark a world record.

“There is a decent chance that Death Valley will experience a high temperature this weekend of between 130 and 132 °F – between 54.4 and 55.5 °C – which (if it occurs) would tie or break the temperature record highest reliably measured on Earth,” climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted.

Despite already extreme temperatures forecast to rise further, possibly breaking records in the middle of a great heat wave worldwide, tourists are flocking to this infamous desert landscape on the California-Nevada border. Daniel Jusehus snapped a photo earlier this week of a famous thermometer outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, after daring himself to run in the sweltering heat.

“I really noticed, you know, I wasn’t feeling that hot, but my body was working really hard to cool me down,” said Jusehus, an active runner from Germany. The photo of him showed the thermometer reading 48.8 degrees Celsius.

Most visitors at this time of year walk a short distance to anywhere in the park, which bills itself as the lowest, hottest, and driest place on Earth, before heading back to the sanctuary in an air-conditioned vehicle. The signs on the hiking trails advise against venturing after 10:00 in the morning.

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Death Valley’s 1913 record of 55°C has been disputed for decades by experts, who believe the measurement was due to a sandstorm that caused superheated particles to hit the thermometer.

“The old Death Valley record from July 1913 is 100 percent false,” Weather records expert Christopher Burt told Climate Connections in July 2021, when Death Valley set the modern world record of 130°F (54.4°C). The meteorologist was a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) team that overturned the previous world record of 58°C (136.4°F), recorded in Libya in 1923.

As of Thursday night, the NWS was forecasting a high of 54.4 °C in Death Valley on Sunday, which would tie the modern record. Whether or not a new record is reached this weekend, Death Valley will be deadly and otherworldly hot, with overnight lows that could top 100°F (37°C).

“Several days of extreme heat will result in great concern for life-threatening heat illness for anyone outside for an extended period,” the NWS warned in a lightning bulletin.

Nationwide, more than a third of Americans were under extreme heat watches, watches and warnings Thursday as a scorching heat wave that has been roasting the nation crept further into California. Sweeping conditions were expected to increase Friday and over the weekend in central and southern California, where many residents should brace for the hottest weather of the year, the NWS warned.

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