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Death Valley Posts 130-Degree Heat, Potentially Matching A Record High

A person walks on a boardwalk at the salt flats at Badwater Basin on Aug. 17, 2020, in Death Valley National Park in California.
John Locher
A person walks on a boardwalk at the salt flats at Badwater Basin on Aug. 17, 2020, in Death Valley National Park in California.

The hottest place on Earth is as hot as it's ever been — at least in terms of recorded temperatures in modern times. Death Valley, Calif., recorded high temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday and 129.4 degrees on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Those temperatures come as Death Valley and other areas in the Western United States continue to be blanketed by scorching heat. The Friday temperature matches 130 degrees recorded in August 2020.

Experts need to verify the 130-degree records from this year and last year, but if correct they would be the hottest temperatures reliably recorded on Earth.

"In more modern times, the hottest that we have seen with some of the more reliable equipment is peaking around that 130 range here for Death Valley," says Chris Outler, lead meteorologist at the NWS in Las Vegas.

While some weather watchers point to a 134-degree measurement in Death Valley on July 10, 1913, that record has been widely disputed — with many in the meteorological community suspicious of that mark because of temperatures recorded that day in nearby areas.

As Outler notes, the 134-degree mark recorded in 1913 — although it is under continued debate — is still the official record as recognized by the World Meteorological Organization.

Forecasters had expected this weekend's temperatures to approach or break that record.

Outler said finalizing record-breaking temperatures — or those close to it — can take more than a year. Last August's 130-degree mark is still in the process of being made official, he said.

"Whatever records we continue to set through the weekend are preliminary," Outler said. "Being that Death Valley is a world record holder, it kind of goes through an extra level of [scrutiny] after the fact."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dave Mistich
Originally from Washington, W.Va., Dave Mistich joined NPR part-time as an associate producer for the Newcast unit in September 2019 — after nearly a decade of filing stories for the network as a Member station reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In July 2021, he also joined the Newsdesk as a part-time reporter.