This post is also available in: hrvatski (Croatian)
Summertime is here. Well, from a meteorological point of view, summer starts on June 1. Astronomers, however, see the summer starting around June 21 or June 22.
One of the commonly asked questions I get is about the temperature records and the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.
While there are some conflicting sources, I tried to analyze and research the highest temperature recorded and give some background story on how the air temperatures are measured by the World Meteorological Organization.
The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth?
For many years, the record for the highest temperature ever recorded was established in El Azzizia in Libya. Allegedly, the temperature recorded was 57.8°C/136.0°F.
However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) denounced this record precisely 90 years after it was established – on September 13, 2012.
According to the WMO, the current highest temperature ever recorded on Earth record is 56.7°C/134.1°F, and it happened on July 10, 1913. Coincidentally, 106 years ago.
The location of the highest temperature ever recorded is Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley, California, USA.
However, there seem to be some doubts about this record as well. The World Meteorological Organization publicly announced that they would be willing to reconsider this record as well, in case some additional and more verifiable data appears.
In case this record from the Death Valley gets denounced by the WMO, the next highest certifiable temperature record would be the one from July 21, 2016, from Mitribah in Kuwait where a temperature of 54.0°C/129.2°F was officially recorded.
How is the air temperature measured?
According to WMO standards, the air temperature is measured using thermometers at the height from 1.25 meters and up to 2.0 meters above the ground and within shade – protected from the direct sunlight. This height is strictly specified because there can be pronounced vertical temperature gradients close to the ground levels.
The measurements should be taken over the level ground, exposed freely to the sunshine and other atmospheric conditions. There should not be shades from trees, buildings, or any other obstructions. To measure the air temperature, the thermometers must be placed within a white protective box with proper ventilation. The main reason for this is ensuring that there is no direct solar radiation reaching the thermometer. This is the main reason why people who put thermometers in direct sunlight record extremely high temperatures. They do not see the temperature of the air; they measure the temperature of the thermometer itself.
In addition to these very basic rules and standards, the WMO has very detailed procedures and protocols on how the temperatures are measured. There is even an ISO standard for air temperature measurements.
Unverified record claims
There are many unverified claims about the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth higher than the official record of 56.7°C. From 57.8°C “recorded” in Cherokee, Oklahoma, all the way to 60°C “recorded” in Kopperl, Texas.
If this talk about record high temperatures are making you sweat and look for some refreshments, you can take a look at the maps and list of the lowest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.
And if you need even more to cool you down, feel free to explore how the word “snow” is written in different languages and what are the origins of the word “snow.”