Hottest Temperature Ever at Death Valley…Uh…No, Not Likely!

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The Associated Press sounded the alarm — the temperatures at Death Valley set the “tentative world record for hottest month”.

The “natural furnace” was on “full broil in July” The average temperature for the month was 108.1 degrees and in July 2017 the average was 107.4 degrees, they continue, acknowledging these were “tentative” figures.

The media spread it far and wide.

Meteorologist and science blogger Anthony Watts, says not so fast on his popular website, “Watt’s Up With That“. It was probably caused by SOLAR PANELS, RVs and other infrastructure features added since the first hottest temperature ever recorded at the site.

Death Valley National Park is a tourist attraction and they capitalize on that with their hottest temperature photo-op sign. The sign is about promoting tourism and who knows where the gauge is for that or how accurate it is. Temperature signs tend to be inaccurate.  The sign is operated by the National Park Service, not NOAA.

There is also a lot of missing temperature data at DVNP.

There was indeed a hotter weather pattern in July throughout the southwest, Watts says.

“But, what really caused the increased average high temperature to be a record setter? The answer is simple; the environment around the weather station used to measure the official temperature changed dramatically in the past few years,” Watts writes.

Watts compared photos of Death Valley temperature sensors in 2008 to recent photos and Google Earth satellite images. He also examined federal logs tracking changes at weather stations.

IT’S THOSE RVS, A/CS, GOLF COURSE AND SOLAR PANELS

He found out a lot had changed! There was “new infrastructure, such as solar panels, parking lots, and air conditioning heat exchanger plants.”

RVs, solar panels and air conditioners generate heat, which can influence temperature readings at nearby weather stations. Parking lots and other artificial surfaces can also raise local temperature readings by retaining heat during the day and shedding it at night. There’s now a nearby golf course that irrigates driving more humidity in the air.

“None of these things were there when the original weather station was placed at Furnace Creek,” Watts notes.

IT’S ALL ABOUT LAND USE

None of these things were there when the original weather station was placed at Furnace Creek. Here’s a photo from 1922 of the station that recorded the worlds hottest ever temperature in 1913:

In the time period, circa 1913-1922 there were NO:

  • visitor center
  • nearby solar panels
  • parking lots
  • paved RV parks
  • AC heat exchanger units
  • golf courses
  • irrigation

“Arguably, these land-use changes all have a cumulative effect on temperature measured in Death Valley,” Watts states. “Because the environment has changed so much, its folly to think of it as a metric for any climate change, because the forces from the land-use changes are far greater than any posited ‘climate change.’”

It’s not unusual for this type of change to affect temperatures and for them to be discounted. Scientists are becoming more conscious of station citing.

Watts noted that temperature readings in Motherwell, Scotland were rejected by the UK because an ice cream truck had idled nearby.

NO RECORD SETTER

A station near Death Valley National Park run by NOAA was 1.5 degrees cooler in July. That was hot, but no record breaker, according to Watts.

“A 1.5 degree difference in the monthly average, and not a record-breaker,” Watts writes. “The old record for the monthly average was 107.4 degrees according the NWS official quoted in the AP article.”


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