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Death Valley Could Set a World Record Hot Temperature

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Amid a punishing heat wave gripping the U.S. Southwest, Death Valley, Calif., could tie or set the record for the hottest temperature ever reliably measured on Earth.

That record currently stands at a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit set there in August 2020 and again in July 2021. Such heat records are becoming more likely—and record cold temperatures less likely—as the Earth heats up from the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by humans burning fossil fuels.

Death Valley, as its name suggests, is sweltering—it’s known as the hottest place on Earth thanks to its desert climate and the local topography. Summer temperatures there often soar past 120 degrees F even in the shade, according to the National Park Service. Because the area’s dry climate is coupled with typically clear skies, the sun constantly heats up the ground, and that heat radiates back into the air. When the air rises, it gets trapped by the steep walls of the valley, which sits 282 feet below sea level. It cools very slightly and starts to descend. As it does so, it compresses and…

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