(ORDO NEWS) — Death Valley, Calif., on Sunday recorded a heatwave of 54.4 C, a preliminary reading that, if approved, would be the third hottest temperature ever on Earth and the highest point of the modern era of meteorology.
A special committee will investigate to validate the event, which climatologists however already accept as the umpteenth sign of accelerated global warming.
As with any official reading, the thermometer concerned, electronic and automatic in this case, is in the shade, in a box about two meters above the ground. The area is called “Furnace Creek”: the brook of the furnace, in the middle of the desert two hours from Las Vegas. Tourists know and sometimes pose with a thermometer (unofficial) in front of the visitor center.
At 3:41 p.m. local time on Sunday, it recorded 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or 54.4 degrees Celsius, the Las Vegas branch of the US Weather Service announced.
More than a century ago, on July 10, 1913, a weather station half an hour’s walk away recorded what remains officially the world record: 56.7 C. This was followed by 55 C recorded in Kebili, Tunisia, in 1931. In 2016 and 2017, 54 C had been reached in Kuwait and Pakistan, respectively.
Exciting? “Obviously, I’m a meteorologist!” Dan Berc, from the Las Vegas meteorological office, who is in charge of the station, told AFP on Monday. “When I was a kid it was really cool to imagine temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit,” he says.
“As soon as possible,” a team will go and get the thermometer to “test it and verify that it is working properly.” It had replaced the old mercury thermometer in 2015, having been tested successfully in the previous three years.
A “committee on climatic extremes”, made up of meteorologists and other experts, will validate the statement within a few months, he said.
– The planet is heating up –
This approval by a scientific committee is not a simple formality.
For example, for decades the world heat record officially dated back to 1922 in El Azizia, modern Libya: 58 C.
But a panel of experts from the World Meteorological Organization had investigated in detail from 2010 to 2012 and concluded that the reading was probably overestimated by 7 degrees, due to problematic devices and an inexperienced observer.
The 1913 world record could in theory also be wiped off the shelves: in 2016, two experts, William Reid and Christopher Burt, published a lengthy independent analysis concluding in an error.
Mr. Burt, a weather historian, told AFP to hesitate on Sunday’s figure, which looks like an anomaly because the difference with the surrounding stations is significant. But, according to him: “We all knew that it would only be a matter of time for it to pass 130 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the Valley of Death.”
In fact, this temperature reinforces an obvious trend for five years, hammer climatologists: the planet is warming, which causes more extreme events. As our climate warms it is becoming increasingly hard to keep those who are vulnerable safe.
If we only considered the modern meteorological era, excluding the 1913 and 1931 readings, the three highest temperatures would have been recorded in 2016, 2017 and 2020. Overall, on average, 2016 and 2019 were the two best years. hottest ever on record, and 2020 could join them. Heatwaves are increasing, as Europe saw in 2018 and 2019, and again this summer, leaving many looking for air conditioning installers to help keep their homes cool.
Most of these heatwaves “would have been rare without climate change,” said Friederike Otto, climatologist at Oxford.
“It looks like we have crossed a new threshold, with the warmest temperature apparently on record on the planet since valid readings have been taken,” commented Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University. “Of course, this record will undoubtedly drop quickly if we continue to pollute the atmosphere.”
As for other climatic extremes, they are cataloged with the same rigor: low temperatures (-89.2 C in Vostok in Antarctica in 1983), precipitation (3.93 meters of water fallen in 72 hours in the Reunion Island Commerson crater in 2007), the heaviest hailstone (1.02 kg, Bangladesh, 1986) or even the longest lightning: 16 seconds in Argentina in March 2019.
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