Hot to Handle: US’ Death Valley Hits 54°C, Which Could Give You Second-Degree Burns


Hot to Handle: US’ Death Valley Hits 54°C, Which Could Give You Second-Degree Burns

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Death Valley, in the United States of America, is famed for being an arid, sweltering place. It’s so hot in fact, that the highest air temperature on Earth, 134 Fahrenheit, was recorded here, in 1913.

The air temperature in Death Valley came dangerously close to that figure on Monday, touching 130 Fahrenheit (54.4 Celsius). A few weather experts, however, who claim that the older, 117-year-old report was erroneous, are now saying that this week’s temperature might be the hottest yet recorded in the planet’s history.

A BBC report cites research conducted in 2016 by weather expert Christopher Burt, which claims “other temperatures in the region recorded in 1913 do not corroborate the Death Valley reading”. Burt’s research also covered a 1931 report of air temperature reaching 131 Fahrenheit, and found the same credibility issues.

In light of Burt’s conclusions, the air temperature in Death Valley on Monday is assumed to be the highest it has been since scientists started keeping track. As far as more reliable records go, the highest air temperature was clocked in Death Valley only seven years ago, in 2013.

The saying “records were meant to be broken” is one that does not apply in situations where climate change is concerned. And the rising temperature is one of the clearest indicators that the climate is indeed changing.

An Al Jazeera report quoted Brandi Stewart, Death Valley National Park’s public information officer, as saying, “We are seeing more records being broken at a daily and monthly level… It is significant that we’re seeing more records breaking.”

The extreme heat in the region has prompted California’s authorities to implement rolling blackouts to conserve power, as the amount of people turning to air conditioning puts a strain on the grid. And the extreme heat poses a real threat to human life, causing cramps, dehydration, and heat strokes.

Air temperature records in Death Valley show that it is indubitably becoming hotter and more inhospitable, in what could be a microcosm of the global climate. Those who wish to deny it can do so, but the barometer does not lie.