From the ABC 7 Weather team

World Record High Temperature Recently Struck Down

April 14, 2013 - 05:47 PM
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The 90-year old global record high temperature record of 136 degrees in northern Africa set in 1922 has been proven invalid. The new global high temperature is now a station in the Lower 48.

It has been written in many textbooks and given credibility for the last 90 years but now a panel of experts from the World Meteorological Organization has invalidated the world record high temperature set in Africa.

Northwestern Libya is subjected to offshore breezes that compress and warm off the Jabal Nafusah mountains. The wind is further heated as it travels toward Tripoli, Libya’s capital city. As a matter of fact, a day with this weather in place on September 13, 1922 led to the observation of 136 degrees just outside of Tripoli in a town called El Azizia. An apparent severe thunderstorm well south of El Azizia produced a strong wind gust that ended up downsloping off the mountains and sent the temperature soaring once the gust arrived in the town.


After extensive research from that event and a look at atmospheric pressure data and sea surface temperatures from this area in Africa, the unusually hot temperature was questioned. The analysis concludes the corresponding air temperature in northern Libya was about 87.8 degrees.

The second piece of evidence that suggested the temperature was a bit off was the quality of thermometer used to make the reading. The Bellani-Six thermometer seen below was found in a military fort and used as a replacement to the standard thermometer for official observations, which had broken. If you look at the thermometer below closely, its maximum temperature reading is 50 Celsius, which is only 122 degrees, when in fact the measurement took at the site on September 13, 1922 was 136 degrees.


(Photo courtesy of the American Meteorological Society)

Another factor that persuaded the committee to conclude this temperature measurement at El Azizia was not correct was the consistent errors made on the observer’s temperature log sheet. The high temperature was put in the low temperature’s column and vice versa. The observer, most likely with the Italian military, misread the temperature reading because there is a discontinuity in his data on September 11, 1922 that continued through the end of the month. The jump in temperatures recorded on his sheet coincides with the low and high temperature measurements put in the wrong columns.


(Photo courtesy of the American Meteorological Society)

The thermometer was put over a concrete-coated plaza at the military fort that can easily absorb heat and be much warmer than the surrounding desert land. After the instrument shelter was moved in 1927, only 2 temperatures above 122 degrees were measured at the site in El Azizia; 125 degrees in June of 1928 and 124 degrees in August of 1941.

Therefore, the World Meteorological Organization has recently declared the new official highest temperature record on the planet to be 134 degrees, measured on July 10, 1913 at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, California. This had originally been the second hottest temperature on the globe and no other temperature since then has reached or exceeded 134 degrees. In addition, the new high temperature record for Africa is 131 degrees at Kebili, Tunisia, registered on July 7, 1931.

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