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The highest temperature on Earth has just been recorded in Death Valley

The rugged Californian region of Death Valley recorded temperature highs of 54.4 degrees Celsius (130 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday.

A record high temperature of 54.4 degrees Celsius may have broken the history books on Sunday as the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth. The measurement, recorded in Death Valley, is currently being reliability-checked by the US National Weather Service. 

The record temperature comes amid the heatwave currently blanketing the US, everywhere from Arizona in the south-west all the way up the coast to Washington in the north-west.

The reading was registered by an automated observation system at 3.41 pm as part of the Furnace Creek Visitor Centre in the Death Valley region. The device used was an electric thermometer encased inside a box and placed in the shade. 

If verified, the Death Valley National Park reading will be the hottest temperature recorded with modern instruments. Previously, the highest measurable temperature in history was recorded at 56.7 degrees Celsius in 1913 at a weather station, just half an hour’s walk away from the latest contender. Yet being over 100 hundred years ago, the devices used were not as accurate as they are today.

However, the previous reading is disputed for a different reason entirely, with scientists arguing that a superheated sandstorm that swept across the area at the time may have skewed the temperature reading. If this is true, it would make Sunday’s temperature a record-setter. 

“This observed high temperature is considered preliminary and not yet official,” stated the US National Weather Service in regards to Sunday’s reading.

The World Meteorological Organisation, based in Geneva, said on Monday that they would start undergoing the verification process of the new US reading.

The potential record-breaking temperature has come amid the US heatwave scorching the west coast. 

“When you walk outside it’s like being hit in the face with a bunch of hairdryers. You feel the heat and it’s like walking into an oven and the heat is just all around you,” Brandi Stewart, who works at Death Valley National Park, told the BBC.

Temperatures for the heatwave were at their highest between Monday and Tuesday and are expected to remain high for at least another ten days or so. A ‘firenado’ even whirled up over wildfire on Saturday, an extremely rare sight in Lassen County. 

Many residents living in and around Death Valley National Park have become completely reliant on solar and wind energy. But when a heatwave hits, the whole system becomes completely overloaded and “demand [for electricity] begins to outpace supply”.

CISO, California’s Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power, has now declared a Stage 3 Emergency, scheduling rolling blackouts in order to control and conserve energy. 

The heatwave is especially alarming and unnatural considering the past five years have already universally been the hottest in history. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heatwaves have killed more people on average than any other extreme weather event in the country. The immediate effects of prolonged exposure to heatwaves are dehydration, body cramps, and heat stroke, while extreme heat can also exacerbate pre-existing health conditions. 

However, Death Valley hasn’t just been feared for its extreme heat. It became infamous during the late 1960s when the Charlie Manson family were terrorising their way across America, finding refuge in a ranch (Barker ranch) within the Death Valley National Park. 

If you’re currently experiencing any of these heatwaves, peel the clothes off and stay inside. And whilst you swelter, listen to Sonic Youth and Lydia Lunch’s feared homage of the Manson Family and the arid region, Death Valley ’69.