Eastern Hemisphere's All-Time Temperature Record: Kuwait Fries in 54°C (129.2°F) Heat
By: Jeff Masters
22 July, 2016
It was a historic day in the annals of meteorology on Thursday, July 21, 2016 in the Middle East, where the temperature in Mitribah, Kuwait soared to an astonishing 54°C (129.2°F).
If verified, this would be Earth's hottest temperature ever reliably measured outside of Death Valley, California, according to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt. The temperature is likely to be verified, since Thursday's incredible heat also extended into Iraq, which set their all-time heat record: 128°F (53.4°C) at Basrah.
According to Burt and Herrera, Thursday's Basrah reading ranks as the fourth highest temperature ever reliably measured outside of Death Valley; the only higher non-Death Valley temperatures were today's 54°C (129.2°F) at Mitribah, Kuwait, a 53.6°C reading at Sulaibya, Kuwait in 2011, and a 53.5°C reading at Mohenjodaro, Pakistan on May 26, 2010.
Note that there is one other competitor for hottest non-Death Valley temperature ever measured: the official all-time high temperature in Israel is a 54°C (129.2°F) reading from Tirat Tsvi, Israel on June 22, 1942. The Israeli Met Office pursued an investigation of the record in 2012, prompted by an inquiry from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and convincing evidence from wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt and weather extremes expert Howard Rainford that the actual high temperature was a full degree lower.
The Israeli Met Office concluded that the record was valid, but refused to make public the details leading to their conclusions. Until they do so, the record remains suspect.
Figure 1. A photograph of the official Furnace Creek, Death Valley maximum recording thermometer at time of observation on Monday morning July 1, 2013 (which was for the maximum temperature measured on June 30). The photo shows a maximum of 129.2°F was reached, tying it with the 129.2°F reading at Mitribah, Kuwait, on July 21, 2016, for the highest reliably measured temperature on Earth, according to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt. Observations at the site are made only at 4 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily. The shelter door is not opened at any other time in order to not affect the ambient air temperature inside the shelter. You may have seen a different image of this same thermometer on the NWS-Las Vegas web site posted July 1, 2013 that shows the temperature just shy of 129°. That is because THAT photograph was taken after the thermometer had been removed from its shelter and turned vertically, which caused the mercury to slip down the tube about 0.3°F. This photograph was taken prior to the thermometer being removed from the shelter. Photo courtesy of Death Valley National Park and NWS-Las Vegas.
Comparison with Death Valley temperatures
The official world record high temperature is 56.7 °C (134.1 °F) on July 10, 1913, in Furnace Creek Ranch, California, in Death Valley. Mr. Burt has commented "the record has been scrutinized perhaps more than any other in the United States. I don't have much more to add to the debate aside from my belief it is most likely not a valid reading when one looks at all the evidence." He proposes that the highest reliably recorded temperature at Death Valley is a 54.0 °C (129.2 °F) reading on June 30, 2013--tied with Thursday's measurement in Kuwait. The 129.2°F value at Death Valley was rounded down to 129°F in the official record, though. Death Valley has also recorded 53.9°C (129°F) four times: July 20, 1960, July 18, 1998, July 20, 2005, July 7, 2007. There is no evidence that the temperature reached 129.2°F on those dates, unlike the reading on June 30, 2013.
The Middle East's heat wave continues on Friday
The Middle East's astonishing heat wave will last one more day. Friday's high in Basrah, Iraq is predicted to hit 128°F and Mitribah, Kuwait is predicted to hit 127°F. Gotvand, Iran is predicted to hit 126°F--very close to Iran's all-time heat record of 127.4°F, set most recently at Gotvand on July 17, 2014. On Saturday, the ridge of high pressure bringing the record heat will weaken, bringing temperatures about 10°F cooler to Iraq and Kuwait, and about 2 - 4°F cooler to Iran.
UPDATE: On Friday, July 22, 2016, Basrah, Iraq International Airport reported a high temperature of 53.9°C (129°F). Today's high in Basrah is the second highest reliably measured temperature in world recorded history outside of Death Valley, California. Only yesterday's 54°C (129.2°F) at Mitribah, Kuwait was hotter.
Mr. Burt plans to post an in-depth look at the new heat records in a forthcoming post.
I'll have an update on the tropics on Friday afternoon.