July’s been an extremely hot month in most parts of the world — but what’s happening at Death Valley in California is just insane.
If you thought it’s hot where you live, you haven’t seen anything. During the last month, over both day and night, the temperature at Death Valley averaged 108.1 °F (42.2 °C) — breaking a record that once used to stand for over 100 years (from 1917 to 2017).
Scorching-hot temperatures in Death Valley are, of course, the norm. For a bit of context, the average temperature in July is 102.2 °F (39 °C) and the previous record was set last year, in 2017. The one before that lasted from 1917. Temperature measurements were made in Furnace Creek, which is located in the heart of the valley, at 190 feet below sea level.
The location is famous for recording the hottest temperature on Earth: 134 °F (56.6 °C) on July 10, 1913. However, that measurement is questioned by some climatologists, who believe that the highest temperature reliably measured at the site was 129 F. But let’s assume for a moment that the former value is reliable.
In 1913, when the value was recorded, one day failed to even reach 100 °F (37.77 °C), and two days hit lows of 70 °F (21.1 °C). This year, the lowest high was 113 °F, and no days were cooler than 82 °F. In other words, regardless of the validity of that one extreme measurement, this July is consistently and significantly above 1913 temperatures, and also above any other year on record.
Even more striking, the high temperature hit at least 120 °F on 21 days, compared to the usual high of 116.5 °F.
These record-high temperatures can almost certainly be attributed to man-induced climate change. It’s not like the valley is the only place to bake — much of continental US is also experiencing record-breaking temperatures, as well as Europe, Japan, and pretty much every place in the northern hemisphere. Rising temperatures and heatwaves are strongly associated with global warming, with a recent study reporting that man-made climate change made heatwaves two times more likely. Essentially, climate change is supercharging the summer, and hotter-than-average temperatures have become the norm.
Here is just a short list of places and countries that have surpassed records this summer: