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Death Valley Dethrones Impostor As Hottest Place On Earth 175

Hugh Pickens writes "Adam Nagourney reports that after a yearlong investigation a team of climate scientists announced that it is throwing out a reading of 136.4 degrees claimed by the city of Al Aziziyah, Libya on Sept. 13, 1922 making the 134-degree reading registered on July 10, 1913, at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley the official world record as the hottest place on earth. 'It's about time for science, but I think we all knew it was coming,' says Randy Banis. 'You don't underestimate Death Valley. Most of us enthusiasts are proud that the extremes that we have known about at Death Valley are indeed the most harsh on earth.' The final report by 13 climatologists appointed by the World Meteorological Organization, the climate agency of the United Nations, found five reasons to disqualify the Libya claim, including questionable instruments, an inexperienced observer who made the reading, and the fact that the reading was anomalous for that region and in the context of other temperatures reported in Libya that day. 'The more we looked at it, the more obvious it appeared to be an error,' says Christopher C. Burt, a meteorologist with Weather Underground who started the debate in a blog post in 2010."
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Death Valley Dethrones Impostor As Hottest Place On Earth

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  • What if... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by filmorris ( 2466940 )
    the temperature in Libya was in Celsius?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Then they'd be dead and no one would have heard about it!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why not switching to celcius? Except for the US and Jamaica, the whole world has... []

      • Re:What if... (Score:5, Informative)

        by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:08PM (#42420749) Journal

        Why not switching to celcius? Except for the US and Jamaica, the whole world has... []

        Liberia, Myanmar, and the U.S. actually []. Jamaica uses Celcius for temperature (definitely when I was there in the 1980s and 1990s).

      • It's kinda pointless to switch just temperature measurement to celsius unless you're going to switch to the metric system entirely.

        • Like virtually all the rest of the world?

        • I don't see why you couldn't use Celsius temperature along with English units, or for that matter Fahrenheit along with Metric units. Both scales are pretty arbitrary as it is.

      • The reason that the old system still holds is that it makes more sense to the people who are not scientists.

        100 degrees F = HOT!
        0 degrees F = COLD!
        1 inch = thumb
        1 foot = foot
        1 yard = 1 persons stride
        1 Rod = 1 oxe in length
        1 furlong = distance a oxe could plow without resting
        1 acre = amount of land an oxe can plow in one day
        1 mile = 8
        1 cup = 1 glass of liquid
        1 pint = beer
        1 quart = 2 beers
        1 gallon = drunk
        1 lbs = 1 Rock
        1 grain = 1 grain of sand

        I could go on, but basically the reason that its hard to do away w

        • Opps

          1 mile = 8 furlongs

        • Re:What if... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by GreenTech11 ( 1471589 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @09:50PM (#42423555)
          You're right, I'm not a scientist, and as such I know how much land an ox can plow in a day! How could the rest of the world be so silly? The only reason that the metric system hasn't been implemented in the US is laziness masquerading as self-entitlement "How dare you take this away from me! This is our history!" Hell, I'm a well educated person, and I had to google ox to find out exactly what one is in relation to a cow. (Trained for farm work apparently, often a castrated male)
        • Re:What if... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @02:10AM (#42424597)
          metric makes more sense for those of us who aren't savant mathemeticians

          1 meter == fraction of the earths surface, just as much as a mans's stride as a yard, differs by 3 inches(76 mm). fuckoff.

          1 milliliter == 1 cubic centimeter

          1 gram == that same cc filled with water.

          0 Celsius - water friezes

          100 Celsius - water boils.

          as far as your beers go, you'd be much happier man drinking them liter size like they do in europe.

          no one uses oxen to plow fields anymore.
          • Liter sized beers? I don't know what part of Europe you're from, but most beers come in 33 cl cans or bottles. Some brews come in 50 cl (.5 l) bottles. In eastern Europe .5 l beers from the tap are more common. Western Europe has glasses of beer varying from 20 to 33 cl from the tap. In some places you can order a meter of beer, which is just a plank of a meter length with 10 to 15 beers (depending on the size of the beers) in holes.
            • in germany, by law, glasses have to be marked with volumes, precisely

              most common are the .5 litre glass, with the oversized 1L stien being available in many places.

              Germany, you get beer in milk crates, with .5 litre size bottles.

              there is no .33
              • No beer in cans of 33 cl in germany? I remember cheap german beer in dutch Aldi supermarkets of .5 l. Tastes like piss though, but that's just the cheap beer I'm sure :)
          • I'm not saying this makes sense to -me- I was saying this is what you have to overcome. People created the imperial system after things they could visualize. Over time the system became a part of the culture. At that point its almost impossible to change, in order to hack culture, you have to overload and redefine the symbols and the rituals of that culture. This has been the chief problem with the Metric system, its hard for the common man to know if 1 Kg of a substance for $10 is a better deal that 1

            • When you change systems you dont find a way for people to handle the transition, there isn't one. Systems change all the time, people get a bit confused, then they learn. A little metric confusion over the whole country for a decade is actually not that much more serious than the current 'different from everyone else' confusion that is a constant problem.
      • by bedouin ( 248624 )

        Sometimes it takes moving overseas for an American to truly realize how dumb the country's rejection of the metric system was. Then again, that's true for more than just measurements.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by XaN-ASMoDi ( 894073 )
      How about Celsius or even kelvin? Most of the world preferably use these units, even here in the UK, home of the imperial system. Seriously, join the 20th century!
      • there, in the UK, where distance is still measured in that archaic unit, the "mile".

        Get with it UK, it's called KILOMETERS.

        -- your snooty offspring, Canada

      • How about Celsius or even kelvin? Most of the world preferably use these units, even here in the UK, home of the imperial system. Seriously, join the 20th century!

        The only thing worse than sticking with Imperial is winding up with whatever weird mish-mash you have with over there.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NCG_Mike ( 905098 )
          Yeah, it's a bit odd here. Temperature in Celsius and distance in miles. People's height in feet & inches and weight in stones & pounds. It's even odder in a supermarket where we use both imperial and metric. You can buy cheese at the deli in either unit. Thank goodness we ditched the old coinage for a metric system. Mind you, it'd be more hip to say we used LSD as a currency :-)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by boundary ( 1226600 )
            Most of this dual measurement in shops (including the change from gallons to litres at the petrol pumps) came about as part of 'closer European ties' back in the 90s, IIRC. There were certain things the government wouldn't budge on, such as changing road signs to miles, and getting rid of the good old British pint glass.
          • In our supermarkets (Canada) you will see a sign below some fruit with the $/kg price below it. The next type of fruit will have $/lb. I shit you not! Don't even get me started on mixing fruits (on the same damn shelf) with some having a $/lb label and some having a $/unit (with lb underneith) layout out in such a way that they look almost like a $/lb label.
      • by Geeky ( 90998 )

        I'm in the UK and I tend to think in terms of celsius for low temperatures and fahrenheit for high temperatures - i.e, if it's close to or below 0 it's cold (thinking in celsius), and if it's in the 80s or 90s it's hot. I think it's the appeal of zero for freezing, coupled with the still common use of fahrenheit in the media to report hot weather.

    • Maybe people on SlashDot will finally learn that scientific notation and the metric system make it easier to not make stupid mistakes while communicating measurements. Really, "136.4 degrees" ? Come on, put some scale with that, n00b.
      • Maybe people on SlashDot will finally learn that scientific notation and the metric system make it easier to not make stupid mistakes while communicating measurements. Really, "136.4 degrees" ? Come on, put some scale with that, n00b.

        Even if they had specified degrees fahrenheit, it would still be wrong, since the original measurement didn't have that level of precision. It's the same mistake that has everyone thinking that normal body temperature is exactly 98.6 degrees F.

    • Yes, because 136.4C (277.52F) is sooooo much more plausible.

  • by Alicat1194 ( 970019 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:37PM (#42420513)
    Would it, really?
  • This is the best world-renowned scientists can come up with? Do some real fucking work and stop using mans obsession with the 'best' to fund your pet moron project.
    • Yeah we all know governments prefer to fund bad-news-tastic climate science over nationalistic dick-waving.

  • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:37PM (#42420523) Homepage
    136.4 degrees is 58 degrees Celsius

    (courtesy of the program in my sig's link).
    • Indeed 58 degrees is what is published in the report. It seems likely that the Libyan report was in integer Celsius degrees.

    • At least. Thanks.
    • 136.4 degrees is 58 degrees Celsius

      Isn't it closer to one a third of a circle? .. unless you are talking about Farhrenheit and not degrees.

  • Dead Heat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Titus Andronicus ( 588015 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:42PM (#42420555)
    There’s a short documentary film about this new (old) Death Valley record called Dead Heat: Overturning the World’s Hottest Temperature [], from Wunderground [] in association with Mitchell Film Company [].
  • I was in Ali Al Salem, Kuwait in June of 2010 and the thermostats showed it was 138. Maybe it was because it was a Air Base and had a lot of planes? Anyway, the lack of humidity there meant the heat wasn't that bad. I've felt absolutely horrible in the Southern USA when the temperature was only in the 90s. There it was in the 130s and it was hot but not unbearably so. I guess the lack of humidity meant that your sweat actually worked better?
    • This is temperature in the shade.

      • You're right, of course - but what if the only shade you can find is your own shadow? How does that affect something like trying to record the temperature? I guess we could just say "hotter than hell" and leave it at that.

        • then you build something to get some shade.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          There's a standard for measuring temperature so you don't have one thermometer in full sun on a backboard made of copper painted black and another under a waterfall (
          Near where I am there is a local government park that had the trees and grass replaced with dark coloured paving, and the local newspaper found that the temperature of a thermometer placed on that paving was at around those Death Valley temperatures while the official figure measured at the airport
          • I worked roofing for awhile, here and there. Take any metal tool, be it a framing square, a hammer, a screwdriver, and lay it on the hot asphalt shingled roof for just a few minutes. The actual temp may only be high seventies, but on a clear sunshiny day, picking that metal tool up after ten minutes can blister your hands. (Of course, I use degrees F, that would be high 20's for you?) I wasn't scientific about it, but a lighter colored roof didn't seem to cook those tools quite so quickly. Color was a

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Oddly enough the colour that absorbs close to the maximum of solar radiation after it gets through the atmosphere is very close to terracotta tile red. Oxidised copper isn't far off, then there's black, which is slightly less because it re-radiates more without absorbing any extra. Asphalt is a very good insulator so keeps the heat, but if it came in a reddish brown it would get even hotter.
    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      As another poster pointed out, the temperature must be in the shade, and that matters.

      To demonstrate just how much a little environmental change can adjust heat though, and hence why the standard must be that the temperature is taken in shade, even here in the UK, in my greenhouse with no fans running for better airflow, my thermometer has recorded 56.5C (133F) even with the vents open. A simple glass structure with windows open can trap drastically more heat relative to the outside temperature in the shade

  • W00t! (Score:5, Funny)

    by 19061969 ( 939279 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:43PM (#42420567)
    W00t! USA! USA!
    • Hugh Pickens... The new Roland Piquepaille []?

      Pimping his "blog" for page views...

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      I've heard it said in the context of the 'first' computer, but it applies to almost any record: the definition of a world record is whatever makes sure it happened in the US...
      • You might have an argument if was decided by a US organization rather than the World Meteorological Organization. Note the word "World".

        • by waimate ( 147056 )

          You might have an argument if was decided by a US organization rather than the World Meteorological Organization. Note the word "World".

          What, like in World Series?

          • I don't see what that has to do with weather.

            • by waimate ( 147056 )

              It has to do with use of the word "World", and the assumption that it always involves the actual world rather than an expansive term applied to a parochial event.

  • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <VortexCortex AT ... trograde DOT com> on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:50PM (#42420631)

    In response to the article about Death Valley, Slashdot generated this quote:

    It'll be just like Beggars' Canyon back home. -- Luke Skywalker

    Indeed, except all the womp rats are dead, and not even a moisture farmer can make a living there. You nerf herders have it easy...

  • Nonsense. Compare to Dome A in Antarctica.

  • Good, America is first again.

    It's funny how they do not take into account the nationalist usian bias in the analysis.

  • Well, I visited some African country that lies straight on the Equautor. As an individual from the west, I arrived with my prejudices that this country would be nautrally hotter than my home land.

    I was wrong! The temperature, right at the equator was no more than 28 degrees celcius (82.4 degrees F). I was suprised. The locals told me it had to do with their altitude, which is much higher.

    When I called my family, they had sympathy for the "hot weather". My repeated advice to them that my homeland (Texas) wa

    • I had a friend in college who came from central Africa... to our school in central Texas. He really could not handle the heat that I took in stride. He expressed exactly the same misunderstanding that your family had, but the opposite polarity.
    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      Well, of course elevation has everything to do with temperature. Proximity to the seacoast is the other big determinant.

      Quito, Ecuador is within 25 km of the equator, but is at an elevation of 2850 m. For each of the twelve months of the year, independently, the average high varies between 18 and 19 C, and the average low, 9 and 11.

      Puerto Bolivar, Ecuador is at an elevation of only 27 m, and the corresponding highs are 27-32 and the lows are 20-22. It is right on the coast, which serves to moderate the temp

  • Dubious pride (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:30PM (#42420925)

    Promotional leaflets that still boast of Death Valley as being merely the hottest place in the United States are being rewritten, and resort owners say they are girding for a crush of heat-seeking visitors come next summer. There is even talk of having an official 100-year celebration of the record-setting measurement next July.

    “It’s about time for science, but I think we all knew it was coming,” said Randy Banis, the editor of, an online newsletter promoting the valley. “You don’t underestimate Death Valley. Most of us enthusiasts are proud that the extremes that we have known about at Death Valley are indeed the most harsh on earth.”

    This seems to me to be a really dumb thing to be proud of.

  • If global warming is bringing more extreme weather, probably that record will get defeated next year, either in southern summer or northern one.
  • when I was in Iraq, in the summer time, it hit 135 on a regular basis, with 141 occationally on hot days

    its not 110 degress, which it gets in west texas either.
  • When I was there is was raining. Quite disappointing.

  • Well here is proof enough that history is indeed written by the victor.

    Got a reading that doesn't tell the right story? Just delete it. That is how they do in the new world of climatology. First they vanish the Mideveal Warming Period and now this.

  • Not, as the misleading title suggests, the hottest place, just the hottest properly recorded single temperature reading
    big emphasis on single temperature reading - one reading a day/week/year does not make.

    Properly recording temperature isn't simple or intuitive - it's also kind of hard to do in some parts of the world because it's so damn hot.

    The hottest place on the planet most years is in the Danakil Desert, which not surprisingly is a bit of a ghost town. Death Valley is about 86 metres below sea level,

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.