What’s the Hottest Temperature Ever Recorded on Earth? The Answer Will Make You Sweat

Whether your hometown cycles through the seasons or you live in a land of perpetual summer, you probably said, “Whew, it’s hot!” at least once this year. If you think your corner of the planet feels a little toasty, you ain’t seen nothing yet. When you see the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth, you’ll count your lucky stars.

Meteorologists record the hottest and coldest temperatures ever

Hurricane Irma in Pembroke
Extreme weather is definitely newsworthy. | Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images

We all love to track the weather— it’s only human. So when your town gets a record snowstorm or hits serious highs or lows, you probably get excited about it. That explains why the World Meteorological Organization organizes databases to track that information. “Everybody is interested in extremes — the hottest, the wettest, the windiest — so creating a database of professionally verified records is useful in that fact alone,” explained Randall Cerveny from the WMO.

Next: How do they get this data?

The data used to track temperatures can get complex

Weather monitoring for Shipping in control room
There is a lot of data involved. | Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images

In order to decide what creates a record weather pattern, scientists must look at climate trends. To that effect, they combine temperature measurements from the air above land and the ocean surface, which ships, satellites, and buoys all collect.

They then compare each daily recorded temperature to the “normal” range over time, generally 30 days. The differences or anomalies between the two numbers help scientists figure out how or whether the weather patterns change over time.

Next: Scientists also use a set of data to determine that information.

Four major data sets track climate changes

An overturned car sits on a snow-covered highway February 18, 2003 near Milford, Delaware. A State of Emergency was declared for the entire state after a record snowfall hit the three counties surrounding Milford.
They want to be as accurate as possible. | Josh Coleman/Getty Images

In order to get an accurate reading, meteorologists don’t just rely on one measure. Scientists use four major datasets to study climate all over the globe. The United Kingdom Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit jointly produce a set named HadCRUT4. In the United States, the GISTEMP series comes via the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration creates the MLOST record. The Japan Meteorological Agency produces a fourth dataset. That variety helps scientists create the most accurate data.

Next: The scientists use grids to figure out average temperatures.

The planet gets divided into grids for accurate measurement

Computers analyzing Australia weather
They combine the grids to get the most accurate results. | VK7HIL/iStock/Getty Images

Once meteorologists combine the data from all of those stations and figure out the anomalies, they divide the planet into grid boxes. Because each station’s data differs slightly in detail level due to the number of recording stations it covers, some grids record more accurate numbers than others. By combining the grid boxes, scientists can figure out average temperatures for the northern and southern hemispheres. Together, the values for each hemisphere create an estimate of the global average temperature. In order to keep the two hemispheres even, scientists take an average of both values.

Next: How accurate are these records, anyway?

These records do indicate some worldwide temperature trends

Climate change rally
It’s not coming out of nowhere. | chameleonseye/iStock/Getty Images

All of these complex measurements do help us track climate trends and records. A number of organizations keep track of temperature trends, and all four show the planet warming over the last 30 years. That said, some data actually contradicts those measurements. Believe it or not, research published in 1990 out of the University of Alabama showed the Earth actually cooling, overall.

Next: So whose records recorded the correct measurements?

Yes, global warming is real

A giant spikey blue wall of glacial ice calves into the sea
Ice is collapsing at a record pace. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

After the contradictory weather data came out, scientists began investigating. They discovered errors in the original methods of data collection which had to do with the sensors the collection satellites used. In addition, those satellites actually drifted over time, affecting their ratings. Once they discovered those discrepancies, scientists corrected the data. It then showed that in fact, the planet does demonstrate a clear and irrefutable warming trend.

Next: The rising highs demonstrate this pattern.

The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth proves it

Car driving down a road blurred by heat waves
They determined that the temperature wasn’t accurate. | David McNew/Getty Images

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth actually came under some scrutiny recently. On Sept. 13, 2012 the World Meteorological Organisation disqualified the record for the highest recorded temperature, exactly 90 years after its establishment at El Azizia, Libya, with a measurement of 58°C.

Meteorologists said that temperature record did not get recorded accurately due to the asphalt-like surface. That meant it could register inaccurately by as much as 7 degrees. “This investigation demonstrates that, because of continued improvements in meteorology and climatology, climate experts can now re-analyze past weather records in much more detail than ever before,” explained Randy Cerveny, a member of the WMO. “We accept that Death Valley temperature extreme record. Obviously, if any new materials on it surface, we will be prepared to open an investigation, but at this time all available evidence points to its legitimacy.”

Next: An accurately named California location actually holds the record.

You won’t believe the temperature in this desert

A lone "sailing rock" sits basking in the bright unrelenting sun at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, California
The temperatures there are unreal. | jamesdvdsn/iStock/Getty Images

After that adjustment, the official hottest temperature ever recorded now stands at 56.7 degrees Celsius or 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists measured the staggering heat on July 10, 1913 in Death Valley, Calif. The temperature in the air at the appropriately named Furnace Creek in Death Valley features an amazing average daily high of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. That makes making Death Valley the hottest place on Earth.

On the ground, it gets even hotter — a measurement of 201 degrees Fahrenheit. Meteorologists say Death Valley gets so hot because it rests 190 feet below sea level. Air warms as it falls, creating an ideal atmosphere for sweat-inducing conditions.

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