Meteorologists overturn reading from 90 years ago, make Death Valley holder of the world's hottest temperature

Sep 13, 2012
This is a drawing of the Six-Bellini thermometer. Image supplied by Paolo Brenni, President of the Scientific Instrument Commission, and courtesy of Library of the Observatorio Astronomico Di Palermo, Gisuseppe S. Vaiana. Credit: Image supplied by Paolo Brenni, President of the Scientific Instrument Commission, and courtesy of Library of the Observatorio Astronomico Di Palermo, Gisuseppe S. Vaiana.

If you think this summer was hot, it's nothing compared to the summer of 1913, when the hottest temperature ever recorded was a searing 134 F in Death Valley, Calif. But while that reading was made 99 years ago, it is only being recognized today by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as the most extreme temperature ever recorded.

That's because an international team of meteorologists recently finished an in-depth investigation of what had been the world-record temperature extreme of 58 C (136.4 F), recorded on Sept. 13, 1922 in El Azizia, Libya. The group found that there were enough questions surrounding the measurement and how it was made that it was probably inaccurate, overturning the record 90 years to the day it was recorded.

"We found systematic errors in the 1922 reading," said Randy Cerveny, an Arizona State University President's Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. "This change to the record books required significant sleuthing and a lot of forensic records work," added Cerveny, who also is the Rapporteur of Climate and for the WMO, the person responsible for keeping worldwide weather records.

Officially, the "new" world record temperature extreme is 56.7 C (134 F), recorded on July 10, 1913, at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, Calif., USA.

"In the heart of every meteorologist and beats the soul of a detective," said Cerveny. In this case the weather detectives had to work around an unfolding revolution in Libya.

Cerveny said the El Azizia temperature had long been thought as dubious. It was recorded in 1922 at what then was an Italian army base.

The international meteorological team – which included experts from Libya, Italy, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Argentina, U.S. and the UK – identified five major concerns with the El Azizia . They included the use of antiquated instrumentation, a likely inexperienced observer, an observation site which was not representative of the desert surroundings, poor matching of the extreme to other nearby locations and poor matching to subsequent temperatures recorded at the site.

The WMO evaluation committee concluded the most compelling scenario for the 1922 event was that a new and inexperienced observer, not trained in the use of an unsuitable replacement instrument that could be easily misread, improperly recorded the observation. The reading was consequently in error by about seven degrees Celsius (12.6 F).

The detective work Cerveny describes included finding and examining the original log sheet, which he said was very useful. In reconstructing the events, Cerveny describes a person new to making temperature measurements being asked to make the measurements with a "Six-Bellini thermometer," which even by 1922 standards was an obsolete piece of technology. By reviewing the logs, it became apparent that the person who recorded the temperature was transposing what he read from the thermometer, consistently scoring the readings in the wrong column of the log.

"One of the problems with a Six-Bellini thermometer is that the indicator—the pointer—to the temperature scale could conceivably be read at the top of the pointer or the bottom of the pointer," Cerveny explained. "If an inexperienced observer used the top of the pointer rather than the bottom, he would have been as much as 7 C in error. "

Other telling forensic information included the general location of where the measurement was made – El Azizia is roughly 35 miles southwest of Tripoli, which is on the Mediterranean coast – and the fact that the record temperature pretty much stood out among all of the other recorded values near the El Azizia location.

"When we compared his observations to surrounding areas and to other measurements made before and after the 1922 reading, they simply didn't match up," Cerveny said.

Investigation during a revolution

The investigation was launched in 2010 and soon after the revolution in Libyan started to form. The Libyan official on the team (Khalid El Fadli, director of the climate section of the Libyan National Meteorological Center) fell out of contact with the rest of the team for about eight months and the investigation went into a suspended state. Then El Fadli sent word that he was safe (although he and his family left Tripoli for a while to avoid being accidently shot in the turmoil) and he could resume his role in the investigation. But another three weeks passed before El Fadli was heard from again.

"Khalid El Fadli did this at great risk to himself," Cerveny said. "He was an official of the previous regime, so when the revolution began to turn, his safety was a key concern."

Fortunately, after the revolution, El Fadli could resume his duties as a lead meteorologist with the new government and the investigation started up again.

Beyond establishing bragging rights, Cerveny said the world record highest temperature does have some important uses.

"This is the highest recorded of where people live, so this type of data can help cities that exist in such environments to design buildings that are best suited for these extremes," he said. "Knowing the maximum temperatures certain materials must endure leads to better products and designs. That's why many auto manufactures have test tracks in the hot Mohave desert.

Cerveny added that there also are important basic science implications in this finding.

"This investigation demonstrates that, because of continued improvements in meteorology and climatology, researchers can now reanalyze past in much more detail and with greater precision than ever before," Cerveny explained. "The end result is an even better set of data for analysis of important global and regional questions involving climate change."

Explore further: NASA's HS3 mission continues with flights over Hurricane Gonzalo

More information: A full list of weather and climate extremes is available at the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes (wmo.asu.edu/).

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NotParker
1.9 / 5 (14) Sep 13, 2012
"They included the use of antiquated instrumentation, a likely inexperienced observer, an observation site which was not representative of the desert surroundings ... "

Just like today!
VendicarD
2.7 / 5 (12) Sep 13, 2012
More bad news for ParkerTard came today as Arctic Ice Area declined to a new record minimum of 2.26 million square kilometers.

Contrary to ParkerTard's claim 2 weeks ago that Arctic sea ice was growing in extent, sea ice area has fallen by more than a half million square kilometers since then.

Also contrary to ParkerTard's claim that the melt season was shorter than usual, this years melt season is now well past the typical turning point and looks as if it will be extended by still another couple of days.

Poor ParkerTard. Reality never seems to agree with him.
KometKaj
4 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2012
The highest measurement by a wheather-station that is!

NASA's MODIS satellite has measured 70.7°C (159.3°F) in the Lut desert in Iran

"In five of the seven years—2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009—the highest surface temperature on Earth was found in the Lut Desert. The single highest LST recorded in any year, in any region, occurred there in 2005, when MODIS recorded a temperature of 70.7°C (159.3°F)—more than 12°C (22°F) warmer than the official air temperature record from Libya."

Source: http://earthobser...eoa-iotd

Br Henrik
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2012
True, but the satellite readings weren't under standard conditions, in the shade, above the ground, and well ventilated. They were of rocks in direct sunlight. I wouldn't be surprised if any asphalt road in warm sunny areas could reach similar temperatures.
NotParker
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 14, 2012
More bad news for VD came today as it was discovered tha there was open water at the North Pole in May 1983


http://wattsupwit...1987.jpg

http://patriotpos...on/14736
thermodynamics
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 14, 2012
NP: Are you trying to look silly? Why would you quote Wattsupwiththat and Patriot Post instead of a real paper on the subject? Are you still trying to say that the ice coverage in the Arctic is not a minimum since sattelite measurements began? If so, please show some scientific source instead of opinions from a blog writers. As you know, every measurement organization in the world is now calling this the lowest amount of ice since 1979. Are you claiming that there was less ice in 1983 based on a picture on a blog?
NotParker
1 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2012
NP: Are you trying to look silly? Why would you quote Wattsupwiththat and Patriot Post instead of a real paper on the subject? Are you still trying to say that the ice coverage in the Arctic is not a minimum since sattelite measurements began?


Joe Bastardi is quite a well renowned meteorologist. As is Anthony Watt.

I don't understand the fetish your cult holds for attacking anyone who disagrees with you. Is it meteorologists in particular or anything who holds ideas that threaten your cult?

However, ice coverage is now 1,000,000 sq km above normal in the Antarctic. Which means, using your cults logic, it was caused by CO2.

Explain.

http://nsidc.org/...ries.png
thermodynamics
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 14, 2012
NotParker: You said: "However, ice coverage is now 1,000,000 sq km above normal in the Antarctic. Which means, using your cults logic, it was caused by CO2."

Let us see if I have you right on two points.

1) You claim that this is not a record low year for ice in the Arctic.

2) You do not see why the Antarctic could have extra ice during warming of the globe.

Now, let me go back over what I know a number of people have explained to you. The Antarctic started out much colder than the Arctic. So, when air become more moist by warming, it is able to transport water to many places on the planet where it precipitates out. In the Antarctic, it is cold enough that the water vapor becomes ice and snow. The Antarctic is warming but has not reached the point where it has all started melting (and it may never in many locations). Consequently, there is increased precipitation in parts of the Antarctic while the edges are being melted.
VendicarD
2.8 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2012
Actually, neither are "renowned meteorologists". The only claim to meteorological fame is that he is a retired Radio weather announcer.

Bastardi is infamous for his idiotic comments on climate which he never seems to get right.

"Joe Bastardi is quite a well renowned meteorologist. As is Anthony Watt." - ParkerTard

Poor ParkerTard. He isn't even smart enough to be able to begin to evaluate the quality of his sources.

VendicarD
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2012
I don't tolerate those liars, thieves, the willfully ignorant, those who are incompetent due to laziness, the greedy, and those who score near the top of the Dunning-Kruger chart.

"I don't understand the fetish your cult holds for attacking anyone who disagrees with you. " - ParkerTard

Your score on Dunning Kruger = approx 97 out of 100, and you have been shown to be a chronic and perpetual liar.

Watts scores 95 out of 100 and has also been shown to be a chronic and perpetual liar who makes loads of cash from his planned deceit.

VendicarD
3 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2012
"However, ice coverage is now 1,000,000 sq km above normal in the Antarctic." - ParkerTard

And now over 2.5 million square kilometers lower than historic norms in the Arctic.

In fact today is yet another record low in Arctic ice area.

This fact comes almost 2.5 weeks after you claimed that minimum arctic ice had been reached and that arctic ice area was then increasing producing a shorter than usual arctic thaw season.

Poor mentally diseased ParkerTard.

We await the day when one of your posts isn't filled with lies.
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2012
"However, ice coverage is now 1,000,000 sq km above normal in the Antarctic." - ParkerTard

And now over 2.5 million square kilometers lower than historic norms in the Arctic.



Why do you think CO2 causes a record amount of ice in the Antarctic (which is where most of the sea ice is).

NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2012
Consequently, there is increased precipitation in parts of the Antarctic while the edges are being melted.


Sea Ice has nothing to do with snow in Antarctica. That is land ice.

They are different.

So, does CO2 causes more sea ice or less sea ice?

Why is their record sea ice in Antarctica?

Simple question.
mr_michaelgirard
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2012
"Since the start of the satellite record, total Antarctic sea ice has increased by about 1 percent per decade. Whether the small overall increase in sea ice extent is a sign of meaningful change in the Antarctic is uncertain because ice extents in the Southern Hemisphere vary considerably from year to year and from place to place around the continent. Considered individually, only the Ross Sea sector had a significant positive trend, while sea ice extent has actually decreased in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas. In short, Antarctic sea ice shows a small positive trend, but large scale variations make the trend very noisy."
Fresh snow is a better reflector of light, builds more water/ice slush, and contributes to sea ice.