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Death Valley soars to 130 degrees, Earth’s highest temperature since 1931 (washingtonpost.com)
353 points by jbegley on Aug 17, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 223 comments



There’s something puzzling about these “Earth’s highest”, as back in the 80’s near Lake Chad, it seems we used to see above 40 C often enough it was notable but not at all unusual, and sometimes hotter, 45 C or occasionally 50 C. Past 50 C, the French and German thermometers didn’t have marks.

I had 125 F - 135 F in my memory. These articles imply that’s not possible. If a tree falls in the woods ... Or, rather, if the sun heats your day in Africa but nobody measures it, is it not hot?

In the surprisingly hot times, your home, at night, furniture was hot to the touch. Weirdest thing, so used to objects indoors at night being cooler to touch.

Too hot to sleep, so a trick was to get in shower in a top sheet then get back to bed and hope to fall asleep before very fast evaporation stopped cooling.

Everything I’ve researched says I’m mistaken, it wasn’t that hot. But then I wonder, how great are temperature records in obscure microclimates in Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa?

// Records or it didn’t happen.


"The standard measuring conditions for temperature are in the air, 1.5 metres (5 ft) above the ground, and shielded from direct sunlight intensity" [1]

Lots of people claim that their region/country has had hotter weather than the records, but I doubt the temperatures were taken in these more precise conditions. It's not like there aren't scientists and meteorologists all over the world (including Africa) who are measuring these things constantly.

If you're standing on dark surface in a hot place, the air temperature can be much higher. "In recent years a ground temperature of 84 °C (183.2 °F) has been recorded in Port Sudan, Sudan."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_weather_records#Measur...


Yeah, we get a lot of that sort of claim in Australia, where the conservative side of politics have made climate change a massively politically polarised topic (it might not be a surprising coincidence that a lot of the major political donors to these parties have made billions from coal mining and natural gas extraction).

We have media commentators and even members of parliament (!) actively trying to discredit our Bureau of Meteorology, pulling up newspaper reports and people's anecdotes of slightly higher temperatures recorded decades ago than records that have been broken just recently. It doesn't seem to a lot of these people to be a good argument that 1) thermometers weren't as accurately calibrated then as they were today, and 2) an observed temperature at your grandfather's farm that was taken from a thermometer hanging under a tin roof that was radiating heat at it isn't up to the standard of the official figures!

Anyway, so at the end of the day it's extremely controversial that the official figures have been adjusted based on measured deviations between the technology used at the time and the more accurate measuring devices used today.


Of course, they see it the other way around, that it's the non-conservative side of politics that made it polarising. That's the nature of polarity ;)

The adjustments to the historical temperature record are an under-discussed topic IMO. Most people don't know they occur. The justifications are by the way not that thermometers were inaccurately calibrated in the 1930s. Thermometer technology is very old. If there are datasets being adjusted that way, that's a new reason that I haven't seen when reviewing this controversy myself. The justifications are, at least for the USA, more like:

1. A claim that people before the 1980s didn't know how to use min/max thermometers and read them/reset them at the wrong time of day. So climatologists have a thing called time of observation bias adjustment, which supposedly corrects for this.

2. Thermometers got moved around over time, so they apply 'homogenization' algorithms to invent readings for thermometer locations that no longer exist

3. Thermometers often had gaps in their readings, so again, they interpolate readings that 'should' have happened from nearby thermometers. Because the thermometer network is getting older with time, the amount of interpolated data keeps going up. For instance the standard US thermometer network used for all American temperature timeseries now has >60% interpolated data generated by a model, they're not raw readings, because there's been so much movement over time.

The counter-arguments are:

1. It's unscientific to quietly alter your data to fit your theories. If there are doubts about the accuracy of the readings, you are meant to add error bars and incorporate that into your uncertainty, not just publish new versions of historical timeseries like climatologists do.

2. The historical justification for TOB existing is not very strong. There's an assumption that people back then didn't know how to use min/max thermometers correctly, but there's not much in the historical record to actually support this claim, which is an odd one because, again, thermometers are an old technology and people were making records of temperature for a long time. A min/max thermometer is not a complex device.

3. Putting aside the fact that again, supposedly raw scientific datasets aren't meant to have interpolated data points in them, homogenization might make sense in the USA where there was a large and well resourced thermometer network throughout the 20th century. But that's not true for the rest of the world, which was busy being wracked by multiple world wars, communist insurrections, 3rd world poverty and so on. Temperature data outside the USA for much of the 20th century is quite sparse and not very high quality, especially as people didn't really care about global warming until the 1970s/1980s.

4. Climatologists have continually adjusted raw temperature readings in new dataset versions even for very recent measurements, like measurements taken in the 21st century. These adjustments always strengthen the case for global warming, they never produce contradictory evidence. So there is a risk of a file-drawer problem, where now the precedent was set that adjusting historical data is accepted, people keep trying different adjustments with different explanations and end up discarding the ones that would reduce the perceived threat.


Everything you say may be factually true, but that would mean we need to improve the quality of these specific measurements. It does not falsify an entire area of study. Anthropogenic global warming is a theory that encompasses a wide range of data from disparate sources, from economy to geology to chemistry, all of which can be neatly explained by a very simple physical model of the carbon cycle.

Bad astronomical readings are just that. They do not invalidate special relativity. Believing otherwise is the hallmark of crackpot physicists. Just nod slowly and hand them an introductory book, and when an alternative theory can explain data outside of a few select readings, then is the time to continue the discussion.


You can't improve the quality of the measurements. That's the point - the measurements were in the past. The log books are all that exists, so you can only improve the quality of measurements being taken in the future.

In fact this has happened. After climatology skeptics made a big stink about the poor state of repair of the US weather station network, Congress commissioned a brand new one. Its construction took into account all the criticisms levelled by skeptics and basically put the matter to rest for newly collected US ground data:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Climate_Reference_Network

Last I checked the US wasn't actually using data from the new network, but that didn't matter because it currently matches the old network pretty well. The adjustments that cause a fuss are for past recordings, not current data.

At any rate, I haven't claimed this falsifies an entire area of study (what would it mean to falsify an area of study anyway?). Climatologists do indeed use temperature data from various sources. However, conclusions based on edited data sets would need to be re-done, otherwise it's not really science is it? And can you blame people for being skeptical when basic temperature history is constantly being re-issued in new 'versions'? Reading thermometers really isn't that hard.


I found your argument cogent though without sources to back it up, hard to believe. I do not know why you are being downvoted though.

Would it be possible to include sources around what you are claiming?


This page goes into it some more and does some recalculations to control for TOBS:

https://realclimatescience.com/no-excuse-for-data-tampering/

In this article he makes substantially similar points but goes into the interpolation process:

https://realclimatescience.com/understanding-noaa-us-tempera...

After I read this article, I downloaded the NOAA datasets to check that the claims were correct. It's easy to write a small Python script to select the measurements with "E" after them (meaning estimated) and check the proportions. They matched his graphs so I don't believe there are factual accuracy issues.

In this article he posts old news stories overlayed with recent temperature timeseries versions, showing how much they differ. It has a bunch of examples of old stories from the archives talking about global cooling, and shows why they thought that given the thermometer readings of the time:

https://realclimatescience.com/climate-scientists-rewriting-...

The second article shows with the moniker of "climate change skeptic" is problematic. Virtually nobody criticising climatologists believes the climate doesn't change. Tony Heller is an arch-sceptic, on the far end and willing to make strong accusations of fraud etc, but even his position is that the raw data shows the world getting warmer. As you can see if you read the second link, he argues the "real" data shows warming of 1 degree, rather than the 3 degrees reported by NOAA. So he isn't really a climate change skeptic in the literal sense of the term, even though he'd definitely be described that way by journalists. He just disagrees about the size of the trend.


Here's an overview of the adjustments that get made to climate data, from a "it doesn't really affect the overall trends you dumb skeptics" point of view:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-data-adjustments-a...

And here's a more skeptical source: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/07/06/bombshell-study-tempe...


Calling watts up “skeptical” is like calling holocaust deniers history skeptics. It’s blatant propaganda.

https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Anthony_Watts

https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/watts-up-with-that/


Skeptics means climate change denialist in your context.


No it doesn't. Very few "climate change skeptics" deny the climate changes. That's a very weak position and changes can be easily seen in almost any data set.

Climate change denialism is a strawman position, designed specifically to sound extreme in order to stop people getting curious and investigating the real beliefs of these bloggers.


> where the conservative side of politics have made climate change a massively politically polarised topic

Not to side with either part, but it always takes two to tango...


That doesn't seem right. It takes only one group to twist the narrative into something that it doesn't have to be.

"There's a virus that's killing people, based up on the current evidence we should all wear masks in an effort to stop it." "You're trampling on my freedoms by asking that I wear a mask."

The first is an objective statement of fact, the second is twisting the message - it can easily get politicized without needing two parties to sink to that level. Now the first has to either engage or try to ignore it, but either way it'll continue to be politicized.


The first part of the first statement is objective. The second part is an interpretation of evidence - but by whom? I'm old enough to remember when masks were not recommended by most public health experts (that is, I was born before March 2020).

I say this with as much neutrality as I can muster - I don't know who to believe about anything. It seems that everyone has an axe to grind, or their livelihood depends on the truth going in one direction, or they just hate the "other side" so much that they'll say anything. Who can you trust? I don't want to become an expert in multiple disciplines just so I can evaluate the daily news. For me, it's an epistemic crisis, and I don't see the way out.


> when masks were not recommended by most public health experts

Maybe they now know better? But let’s approach this as neutral as we can, because health experts haven’t and still don’t agree globally.

But did countries that recommended and used mask early fare better than those who didn’t? It would seem so, as Korea, Vietnam, Japan and others did better than even us in Scandinavia who closed down and got through spring/summer better than most (excluding Sweden who did terrible). Maybe the early mask adopters did other great things, and maybe masks had no impact, but if you’re cautious, it would seem the neutral conclusion based simply on data is that masks are probably a good idea.

Even if it turns out that masks do in fact do nothing, then what’s the damage from having used them? More trash and some money spent on it (if you’re like us and the government uses money to enforce low prices for everyone and free masks for the poor). Isn’t that acceptable?

I personally feel the same way about global warming. Even if it should turn out not to be man made, are we really going to be worse off by having gotten off fossil fuels?


> I'm old enough to remember when masks were not recommended by most public health experts (that is, I was born before March 2020).

There were initial concerns that improper mask use might do more harm than good (via misuse and potential changes to behaviour of wearers). Statistical and observational evidence has not borne this out, so the advice has changed.

By the way, this was just for mask use by laypeople; masks were always recommended for trained medical staff (where there would be less concern about misuse).


It's been an issue for a very long time, see "Gell-man Amnesia": https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/65213-briefly-stated-the-ge...


> The first is an objective statement of fact,

"We should all wear masks" is not based on facts all all. Science tells us how masks work, and we can interpret those facts and learn when they should be used.

But from there to everyone wearing masks at all occasions is a leap from facts to opinion. Mandatory face masks because the costs are low and the risks are negligible is pure politics. Compare with "it was even warmer during the middle ages therefore global warming is not anthropogenic". It may be based on a fact, but the facts do not support the conclusion.

Bicycle helmets is perhaps the most well known example of this. It is clear how they protect, that they are effective, and when they should be used. That does not mean mandatory helmet laws are a good idea. In fact, the places in the world with the lowest accidents per kilometre are also the ones where helmet usage is lowest! This may be surprising at first.

Face masks may cause people to relax and enter crowded spaces they hadn't otherwise. Touching the mask is a very effective way to get virus material on your fingers. Kids playing with face masks is most certainly not a good idea. And so on. It is not unlikely that there are situations where face masks will worsen the outcome.

Mandatory helmets have been much more studied than mandatory face masks, even if this is likely to change. Until then, any policy made is necessarily politicized, not objective.


SketchySeaBeast may not have chosen the best metaphor, but I think their point stands: in political discourse in the United States it frequently happens that people sow disinformation, and good-faith attempts to correct the record by subject-matter experts are dismissed as partisan politics because everyone knows "it takes two to tango".


I completely agree with this point so long as it isn't couched with the usual implication that "disinformation" comes solely from one party or the other.

Propaganda is very real and is utilized by all sides.


I think I could summarize your position on masks as if we don't have sufficient evidence that mandatory mask usage helps, we shouldn't implement the policy because it infringes people's freedoms and there is a small chance it is actually worse.

I apologise if I got it wrong. I think that's a very weak argument though. We have a lot of reasons to think a policy like that would be effective. It's cheap and low risk, so why not implement it?


> It's cheap and low risk, so why not implement it?

I will humbly quote myself:

Should every person over 18 be required to carry a condom in their pocket? The costs are small, the benefits are obvious.


While the concept of mandatory carry may be politically hard, the question is a very good one.

We know how condoms protect against STDs. Perhaps it should be mandatory for high risk avenues where young adults congregate, such as music festivals and campuses, to sell condoms?

The argument could easily be made that easy access to condoms would increase risky behaviour in young adults, thereby negating the obvious positive effecs. The parable to bicycle helmets and face masks should be clear.

Luckliy, this has been studied! Turns out, sex drive is dominated by other factors than accessibility of contraceptives.

So that's an example where multiple studies were conducted, under varying circumstances and in multiple countries, before anything was made mandatory by law. Sometimes public health policy works. Sometimes it's mostly posturing.


Given the rates of teen pregnancy in the US, worse than all other developed countries - maybe not in the pocket, but giving them out free in schools would probably help.


that reminded of a recent Russian joke - "seeing how people wear masks explains while the condom based protection is so unreliable and fails so much"


Haha, yeah it does! Thanks for sharing.


> we shouldn't implement the policy because it infringes people's freedoms

Not remotely similar. Freedom is a political construct. It makes a great purpose for policy, but "because freedom" is a lousy argument.

The fact that face masks work is a good argument to study what effects it has on the general population. It is not a good argument to base policy on, especially not out of context. By the precautionary principle, we should not make things mandatory where the outcome is not known.

There are numerous examples, for example on how to treat premature infants, where good ideas were made policy which actually worsened the outcome. The same low risk argument could have been made, but side effects were in fact unknown and babies died unnecessarily often.

> We have a lot of reasons to think a policy like that would be effective. It's cheap and low risk, so why not implement it?

The same is true for mandatory bike helmets. They're cheap and low risk. Turns out that doesn't make for good policy. The similarities are more than superficial.

Let me phrase that differently: The argument is bad because the risk is not low, it is unstudied. There are several easily identifiable side effects that might well increase the spread of the virus.


Freedom is a policy. The actual argument sounds like "I don't want to".

Why don't you become a vegan? Why don't you exercise every morning? Why don't you have children? Why don't you say a prayer before dinner? Why don't you wear a helmet when riding a bike? Why don't you rescue a cat from the shelter? All these things are good for you and carry little risk.

The only correct answer to these is "because I don't want to". And your ability to say this is called freedom.


This is a poor argument. Doing nothing just because we're uncertain of the outcome is only a good strategy when the action is risky. This is not the case with masks.

We know how masks work, they protect other people very well. The problem is it doesn't help the wearer as much, so people don't want to use them and everyone suffers as a result. So make it mandatory. While perhaps there aren't the kind of large scale studies you want to see, yet, at least we have very good reason to think it will work and almost no risk. That's a logically sound policy.


Again, the argument is not to do nothing. The argument is use masks where they help, not enforce usage where they don't, and further study the in betweens.

The point of my comment wasn't to argue for policy however. It was to point out the inaccuracy of the statement that "we know masks work, therefore making masks mandatory is objectively good (for public health)". There are several examples where this reasoning have turned out to be not only empirically false, but actively detrimental. Bike helmets and infant mortality come to mind.

The comparison with bike helmets is apt. They are great, it is easy to understand why they work, but still enforced usage damages public health. One theory is that lesser people bike, and those that do take more risks. The facts are that areas with the least cycling risks have the least helmet usage.

Enforced masks everywhere all the time has the obvious risks of more people going outside even with slight symptoms, and taking more risks by not avoided crowded places.

These arguments are not mine, look at the meta studies WHO made. I simply parrot what little articles I can find, and compare with other similar public policy, including bike helmets.

The relevant question to ask before making masks mandatory by law is not whether they help reduce virus spread some of the time, or even most of the time, but rather if there instances where the enforcement actually increase spread. Judging from published literature, that is far from unlikely.


Mandate masks or don't. It's a boolean policy decision. Not making that is doing nothing with respect to that policy.

I'm sympathetic to your argument about unintended consequences, and you could even turn out to be right. But if I had to bet on which policy decision would be smarter, I'm still going to go for mandatory masks. I think in the end assuming that masks will work on that level is more likely given what we know, than assuming there is an unknown unintended consequence so powerful it negates the usefulness of masks completely.


Unless this is some word definition game, of course policy decisions aren't binary. You could make masks mandatory for health care workers. You could request people to wear masks but not enforce it.

So far, data does not agree with your feeling which decision is smarter. The cities with the harshest mask policies have been the ones with the more secondary outbreaks.

One only needs to take a stroll in Paris too see why. Outbreak worsened right after masks were made mandatory, no matter which indicator you look at.

However, it is also important to realize that does not mean face masks are inherently bad. We don't know that either. It means other factors are important, and sweeping policy decisions require data.

The WHO knows this, hence their recommendations. Public health is hard. So far it has mostly been a case of political posturing, along the classic "we must do something, this is something, therefore we must do it".


> We know how masks work, they protect other people very well

You said this with certainty. What's your best quality link to support this claim?


I really don't understand--or I think I should say, I really don't have the energy to evaluate all the excess/lack of misinformation/information--the extent of how much our knickers are getting into a wad over this wearing masks issue.

I for one, am willing to suffer the discomfort of this minor piece of clothing for the sake of my neighbor. Will it benefit me? Not entirely sure. But the appreciation I get from my lesser-informed neighbor is good enough. It may be a placebo, sure. The subsequent peace between him and me is what makes all the difference in trying to keep a positive attitude in this most negative climate.

And besides, it really doesn't take me much effort to keep clean the plethora of masks I've accumulated. Use plastic baggies to store when mask is not use. Keep a second one handy when in doubt that the one in use has been compromised. Etc. Not that expensive, really.

Well, I just thought I'd contribute my hopeful 2¢. Stay safe, y'all!


The second statement is also a fact: wearing a mask violates people's freedom.

Balancing safety and freedom is an ages old question.


No one complains when a store posts the sign "no shoes no shirt no service"

No one complains when a school has a dress code and someone is sent home for wearing "inappropriate attire"

But there are an awful lot of complaints and concerns and discussions about freedom from people when asked to wear a mask, at least indoors.

The problem is pretty simple - the oft used phrase "it should't be a partisan or political issue" is irrelevant because when one side the argument bases their beliefs strictly on the fact that they don't like the other side and will oppose everything not based on the merits of arguments and information but rather that they hate the other side, then EVERYTHING becomes partisan.


> No one complains when a school has a dress code and someone is sent home for wearing "inappropriate attire"

This statement is factually wrong. Both students and parents do complain about it. A lot.

But getting back to masks question: should two consenting adults who are on the private property be allowed to take their masks off? What if one of them happens to be a business owner and the other one is a customer?

Should every person over 18 be required to carry a condom in their pocket? The costs are small, the benefits are obvious. The science and the facts both support this.


No; this isn't a purely abstract political issue. If you deny the moon exists for political reasons, that doesn't mean that looking at the moon is a political act.


In this case it takes scientists and people who see a potential threat to their profit margins if the science is accepted as true.


It really doesn't. Take genocide for example, a polarized conflict. It's ridiculous to point to the victims as mere participants in a mutually antagonistic conflict.


My favorite is when people use their cars thermometer to declare the temperature. Yes, of course your car that has been sitting in the sun with full-on greenhouse effect is going to read some insane record-breaking number, but no, that's not the real outside temperature.


I have actually been repeatedly surprised at how sane the temperature measurement on my car is. It'll be sitting baking in the sun, then I get in and swelter, but the measurement is actually really close to what was forecast. Sometimes, I then drive off, only for the measurement to actually increase by a degree or two as I head into a different microclimate. If it was significantly affected by the greenhouse heat of the car body, it would decrease as I drove away, due to increased airflow. I don't know where they put the sensor, but I think they got it right.


> I don't know where they put the sensor, but I think they got it right.

In all my recent cars, the sensor was on the underside of one of the side mirrors (and fairly precise as well).


In my BMW 3 Series (F30), it's placed under the car between the right front wheel and the bumper. It can be clearly seen when you look under the car. I do notice some temperature difference between being parked and driving.


Car thermometers (at least in modern cars) are outside, not inside the car


Yes, they’re usually right behind the front bumper cover, which is better than many locations, but is still susceptible to radiant heat from the vehicle and/or the road surface.


Mine can be off as much as 15 deg F. In the shade it is pretty good. Direct sunlight for a few hours? Oh I am sure my bumper is that temp...


No it is not ... but it is the temperature a lot of people are affected by, isn't it?

Same with my south side office place directly behind a huge glass window, no AC [1]. Super nice too look out ... but 35+ °C on "normal" 25+ °C degree days.

[1] Other parts of the building reflect sun light back on our window front ... I actually got pictures of objects on my desk casting two shadows.


> No it is not ... but it is the temperature a lot of people are affected by, isn't it?

It's not comparable, though.


Is a car thermometer really placed inside the car? I would've expected it to be placed under the back of the car.


No you're right, it's generally outside, but definitely impacted by radiant heat from either the car, pavement, etc. A car in the shade or a car being driven will usually have a lower temperature reading than one parked in the sun.


> "The standard measuring conditions for temperature are in the air, 1.5 metres (5 ft) above the ground, and shielded from direct sunlight intensity" [1]

And they use enclosure like this to do that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevenson_screen

> If you're standing on dark surface in a hot place, the air temperature can be much higher. "In recent years a ground temperature of 84 °C (183.2 °F) has been recorded in Port Sudan, Sudan."

I have a outdoor temperature sensor in one of those enclosures and one in my attic. On sunny days, the attic regularly reaches 140+ °F and is maybe 50+ °F hotter than the outside air. I'm sure if I put the sensor directly on the roof, it'd closer to the attic temp than the outdoor temp.


* in open space away from buildings and trees,

* on top of grass or dirt soil.

* 1.5 m above the ground, shielded from sunlight and covered from the weather.

* normal air flow around the thermometer


So sticking a thermometer on an umbrella would do the trick?



Is there any study data comparing these kinds of thermometer boxes? They look like mini hotboxes that can heat up like a car left in the sun.

edit: someone posted a wiki link for Stevenson screen below just after I asked.


I have taken a reading, in controlled conditions (in the shade of a berm next to an earthen road, digital thermometer accurate to +-0.1C), of 54.2C - admittedly over dust rather than vegetation, but there was no vegetation. I’d been collecting all sorts of data along our route (started from the U.K.), mostly just for the sake of it.

This was in the Kazakh steppes, in 2012, about 100km NW of Aralsk - it was under 20% rh, and the heat was just unbearable - it took us tens of litres of water each per day to replenish sweat, just sitting on our asses in a car with no a/c. The dashboard melted. The glue in the headliner melted, and dripped down the walls. The grip on the steering wheel sloughed off, and the gear shift head glue melted, and that fell off too. At the end of the day, we had an uncomfortably hot shower with the remaining water that had been sat in the car with us.

54C, when measured as an accurate temperature, manifested as 60C on the thermometer in the car, which was its maximum, as it had shown that for several days before the LCD also melted.

So yes, take the apocryphal tales of high temperatures with a big pinch of salt, as most will be overreported, but I can vouch that this particular temperature isn’t entirely unprecedented on Earth - what is worrying is that it is now frequent enough that it is being observed, rather than just being a random nutter in the dust with a penchant for data.


The thing is, it's easy to measure hot temperatures. Put some foil together and you can boil water. Only real, scientific measurements matter.


Yes, that was my point.


>>I had 125 F - 135 F in my memory. These articles imply that’s not possible. If a tree falls in the woods ... Or, rather, if the sun heats your day in Africa but nobody measures it, is it not hot?

As the other comment said, you measure temperature a certain way. No doubt in the sun its hotter than 130 degrees, but that's not how temperature is measured. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevenson_screen


Meteorologists use a standard enclosure called a Stevenson screen[1] to ensure measurement consistency around the world.

Or at least they did until very recently. There might now be some active-airflow alternatives.

Anyway, if it isn't measured with a (calibrated) standard apparatus, it isn't an official measurement.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevenson_screen


To expand on this, the thermometer itself will come with documentation tracing its calibration back to NIST. This applies to scientific instruments of all kinds. Not doing that is part of why grocery store thermometers are so cheap.

https://www.nist.gov/traceability/supplementary-materials-re...


I think you're right. Unless the thermometer was broken, I remember a couple of days when the temperature was over 130 in Iraq during Summer. It was just one of the cheap thermometers that looks like a big wall clock though, so I don't know how accurate the measurement was.


A thermometer against the wall doesn't have free airflow, is typically higher than 1.5 metres above the groud, and may or may not be in the shade; all these will typically account for more error compared to standard conditions (typically provided by a Stevenson screen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevenson_screenhttps://en.wik...) than miscalibration.


When I was in Egypt for a week in April (not this year), it was 40°C the whole time in the day, without much variation. I'm guessing they must get higher temperatures later in the summer.


Where in Egypt? I lived in Cairo for 20 years or so, high 30s / low 40s is pretty standard in the summer. A mid-summer heatwave could get to mid-40s. Never saw it get to 50.

In the south of Egypt (eg Aswan, Luxor), though, mid or high 40s would be much more typical in the summer and wouldn't be surprised at all if it hit or crossed 50.


On his "Sahara" trip Michael Palin measured 55C/131F (unshaded), at Tirelli in Mali. (Presumably he was there on a randomish day, rather than a record-setting one.)

https://www.palinstravels.co.uk/book-2120


I'm from South Australia, more specifically: Port Lincoln.

Now look, I don't mean to sound like I'm over exaggerating, because I'm not: It gets fucking hot there, and then it will start blowing 40 knots sustained (74kph / 45mph), straight down the centre of the country, and then something, typically a national park, will catch fire.

And that makes it even hotter. So hot houses spontaneously combust from the radiant heat before the fire front.

And then there's Adelaide, similar latitude, just 250k or so east, with the urban heat island effect. Quite unpleasant.

So yeah, we only know about the places the Bureau Of Meteorology keeps records for.

There's probably some rural Australian grazier reading this going "55 degrees C? Heh, that's mild."

I hear Baghdad is can get quite warm.


Doesn't it need to get up to 300°C (the flash point of wood) for things to spontaneously combust from the ambient temperature?

I agree with you that hot and dry conditions make wildfires much easier to start and spread, but that's been having an effect in residential parts of California over the last few weeks, where the temperature has at most been around 100-110°F (38°-43°C).

(And I do agree that, metres from a moving fire, the temperature is probably past the flash point of many substances, but I wouldn't call that climate, I think.)


Rather than spontaneously combusting; in a large bushfire that is generating firestorms, the pressure differential can cause nearby houses to literally explode. My late uncle who was at the Mt Macedon fires during Ash Wednesday told the story of getting trapped by the fire and sheltering with another firefighter in a house that was ripped apart around them - they ended up sheltering in a concrete toilet block as the fire raged past.

These type of fires create their own weather.


I don't think (hope!) the OP isn't claiming spontaneous combustion.

I'm in Australia (Adelaide) too and the bushfire threat is real, but it's because when it's super hot any spark in dry eucalyptus leaves takes off extremely quickly.


I'm not making this up.

Heat from the fire reached 1,000 °C (1,830 °F), with speeds up to 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyre_Peninsula_bushfire,_2005


> The source of ignition was subsequently found to have been a vehicle parked in grass on the roadside.


Sorry, "spontaneously combust" was probably the wrong term.

I just meant material will catch fire from the radiant heat alone, well before the fire actually gets there.


Those 120-121F days last January that Port Lincoln round to Port Augusta got would have felt hotter than 130F in Death Valley due to the relative humidity. Just not the same.


It's not that humid in Port Lincoln. The areas around it are extremely dry.

Mumbai. Now that's hot and humid.


We had 48C where I am in Spain and that was ‘the highest on record’; I browsed back 8 years or so in Facebook and found my and my friends pics of thermometers pointing over 50C in the same place. You have make headlines somehow right?


What's inportant is not the absolute value but the differences over the year when measured in the exact same condition with the same device for which error margins are known. It also just depends where this thermometer was. If it had been sitting in plain sun all day long and wasn't specially built for that it will always be at quite higher temperature the same way any surface can reach really high temperature.


In the shade. No-one hangs thermometers in the sun here. But yeah; a house grade thermometer is not that accurate I guess. Thing is; when the heatwave (and hurricane after it) was at that time, it was so hot that people (and dogs) were vomiting (including me) because it was so hot (I am not from here and definitely not used to this kind of weather; I had the same problem when I was in India during a heatwave). This year nothing came close; neither on my imperfect thermometer nor the physical struggles.


> If it had been sitting in plain sun all day long

Please, even the most simple minded people don't do this.


Agenda.

The US has records not broken stretching back to the very late 1880s and 1890s and of course there were a few hot years in the early part of the 1900s. Quite a few records are still standing from the 1930s.

Still in the end understand every generation has doom and gloom weather prophets and today we like to bludgeon people with "scientist say this" but that was the case a hundred years ago to.

record books are fascinating but better yet are finding archives of newspapers which are online for nearly every major metropolitan area.

We seem to be a society hell bent on declaring our generation as the worst off and the good old days are long gone.

and people wonder why they are are unhappy


The existence of higher temperature records from the past does not invalidate the basic science of anthropogenic climate change.

It's the same with, say, the massive fires in Australia that were in the news late last year. People rightly point out that there have been large fires in the past too. That's correct, and no one is disputing this. People then conclude that, since there were massive fires in the past, there's nothing new about it and therefore the climate crisis is just pointless alarmism. That's totally incorrect. It actually has absolutely nothing to do with how dire the situation is.

The thing about climate change is that what were once extreme freak events are now becoming commonplace. Extreme temperatures are becoming normal temperatures. Massive wildfires are far more likely to occur. Warmer oceans means more heat energy available for the formation of tropical cyclones.

I mean, honestly, do you really think that the entire scientific community of the planet did not consider the fact there were extremely hot days in the past?

If you want to ridicule the basic science behind climate change, you'll need to understand it first, instead of assuming you've found a loophole that invalidates everything that everybody in the world missed.

The fact of the matter is that we're all in extreme trouble. So are you. So is everyone. It can not be overstated how bad the situation is. But rather than face that, people would rather choose to believe they're such geniuses that they can invalidate the entire scientific community's decades long work by a gotcha.


Sources?


I was in Kuwait at the end of July back around 2010, and the temperature was in the 120s. I remember getting off the airplane and thinking that we were walking through the exhaust of the jet engine, until I realized that's just how the air feels for a big chunk of the year. You get used to it, but it feels like someone is pointing a blow dryer in your face any time the wind blows.


Driving through Texas in the summer a long time ago, I got out of my car briefly and was struck by how my long pants were palpably trapping cooler air and shielding me, when I'm used to thinking of less clothing as being suited to hot weather.


There's a reason why traditional clothing in many very hot regions is loose, long and light (in both color and weight). Air is an insulator and clothes provide good UV protection.


For temperature you want IR protection.


All frequencies of light will transfer heat. UV light can cause damage to DNA because it's energetic enough to be ionizing (it can detach electrons). IR light is not ionizing, but we associate it with heat because the black-body radiation of things we generally interact with (humans and stovetops, for example) is mostly in the infrared spectrum. The sun is much hotter and emits light in IR, visible and UV spectrum.


All EM radiation carries energy and the higher the frequency more energy is carried by each photon but that doesn't mean that the energy is transferred as heat (i.e. increase in temperature of the body).

The reason why IR is felt as heat is because it has the right wavelength to excite atoms and molecules unions into resonance.

> IR light is not ionizing, but we associate it with heat because the black-body radiation of things we generally interact with (humans and stovetops, for example) is mostly in the infrared spectrum.

In particular, this relationship is backwards. We don't associate heat with those objects because they happen to emit in the infrared. Since they emit in the infrared, they are good at heating (i.e. exciting molecular unions into vibration modes that make most of the energy stored). This is related to the fact that most of the mass of an object is associated to the nucleus, instead of the electrons. If it was the contrary, exciting electrons into higher energy states would be a better way to transfer energy into an object.

On the other hand, UV protection is good to prevent high energy being transferred into electrons which then get excited into higher energy states messing up electronic bonds and potentially our DNA.


I used to live in Dubai.. The summers there were spent indoor in AC as much as possible. 5 minutes outside going to the supermarket and I was drenched in sweat..

It literally feels like having your face over an open oven.


@HN: If you use the word 'degrees' please add F or C to indicate which scale you are referring to. Many here are from the US and would interpret it as degrees Fahrenheit while many others read it as degrees Celsius.


I only know Celsius, but it's pretty clear here from context that it's Fahrenheit. It's annoying, because I still don't know what the measured temperature actually was, but I feel pretty safe assuming that the air temperature was not above the boiling point of water where I guess there would be spontaneous combustion


The best way to interpret Fahrenheit (for Celsius people) is to think of a scale from 0 to a 100 in terms of human comfort.

0F is really cold.

100F is really hot.

Something towards the middle feels pretty good (50F, 60F.. but really depends on preference in this region).

So, with that in mind, 130F is scorching off the charts, and I wouldn't want to be out there.


> The best way to interpret Fahrenheit (for Celsius people) is to think of a scale from 0 to a 100 in terms of human comfort.

I've heard this several times, but I can tell you it really doesn't help me to get a good sense of Farenheit. My theory is Americans enjoy describing it this way (0 = really cold, 100 = really hot) because it seems pragmatic and humane, but it probably does little to help them get a feel for the scale. The main reason they have a good feel for the Farenheit scale is lots of experience with it, same as any other scale. Lots of internalised data points that create a frame of reference.

We Brits like to think our scale is easy because 0 = melting ice, 100 = boiling water. But when I estimate the outdoor temperature as 25 C, I think my brain is really just linking that to past experiences of similar temperatures, the ice/boiling water thing doesn't come into it.


Americans describe it in this way because in large swaths of America, 100F is more or less the hottest it will ever get, and 0F is about as cold as it will ever get.

It's not a matter of "getting a sense of the scale". That sense of the scale comes from lived experience of weather, not brief textual descriptions of the scale.


So we agree then?


Room temperature is 72-74 degrees F (22-23 C). 68 is comfortable for me, and most people I know get cranky when the temperature dips below 65.

This doesn't change the fact that 130 is hot, but for many people 50 F is "freezing."


That's indoor temperature though. I assumed we were talking about outdoor temperature since usually the temperature provided by weather apps measures outside temperature. While 60 may be freezing indoors, it feels great outdoors to me.


Another easy way is to remember two points on each scale (which to me is easier than remembering the conversion equation). 0C is 32F, and -40C is -40F. From here you can figure out the conversion equation. It'll be easy after doing this a few times.


I think is more like the typical outside temperatures in the Netherlands (where Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit lived most of his life):

Rarely below -18°C ~ 0°F

and rarely above 38°C ~ 100°F


No, I really hoped to be amazed by some weird phenomenon that can cause 130 degrees. Didn't even think about Fahrenheit.


To get a rough idea of how warm it is in Fahrenheit just remember that 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the body temperature.


People say this a lot, but when is it actually a problem?

In this example, it's obviously Fahrenheit, since 130C makes no sense. From context, you can almost always tell whether it's C or F:

* < 50: C if it's warm, F if it's cold

* > 50: Mostly F, sometimes context-dependent

* And the closer to 0 the less it matters

For other values outside human range it doesn't make much of a difference. Humans can't appreciate the difference between 10000C and 10000F, it's just "really damn hot".


See comment that's currently just above yours: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24187188


I don’t know... an American newspaper describing an American locale as either “really hot by American measure” or “well above boiling by global measure”... seems very ambiguous to me.


For all we know it might even have been Réaumur.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Réaumur_scale


What about "130F / 54.4C"?


If 500 people take 15 seconds to do the google search to convert f to c or c to f because the title only mentions one, then having the poster or editor do it for them saves 2 hours of combined life. Do it for the humanity!


In this case it is pretty obvious what was meant, isn't it?


I'm so happy I got to see Marta Beckett's show in the Death Valley Opera House. It was a fantastic experience I'll never forget.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amargosa_Opera_House_and_Hot...

Then, spending the night on the giant sand dunes. The deeper you'd put your hand in the sand, the warmer it would get.

Special people in Death Valley. Gorgeous landscape.


Reminded me of this recent news:

"Warming Greenland ice sheet passes point of no return"

https://phys.org/news/2020-08-greenland-ice-sheet.html


Since when has the Washington Post messed with the URL bar? When you visit the link, it removes the path from the browser history, so if you attempt returning to it you end up on the WP front page instead.


Blocking javascript for this domain solves the issue (and makes WP's website more usable overall)


Its a soft paywall - try in private mode


Doesn't work


54.4 °C


I think there is a typo, as the Death Valley record was set in 1913.

This article goes a long way towards discrediting that record though:

http://stormbruiser.com/chase/2013/08/29/death-valleys-134f-...


Not a typo but deliberate obfuscation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYiFWhvg7Fg


Death Valley is an underrated park. It's an amazing place to visit in the winter, when it's more pleasant / cooler.


Shh, don't ruin it. It is like all the yahoos that recently discovered Joshua Tree and decided to trash the place.


I thought your comment was going to end with "and buy the album"


I loved it in July as well. I describe it as otherworldly. Just bring a lot of water. I'm from Phoenix though, and I'm well used to heat.


Jacobabad, in Sindh province of Pakistan is not so far from where my mom grew up in Guddu. I am certain they have recorded temperatures this high and USAF used to fly drones to Afghanistan out of the Air Force base there.


Places you can’t use a (consumer grade) smartphone (because they will self power off) or even an outdoor WiFi hotspot (because the transceivers distort). If your car breaks down...


130°F <=> ~54°C


That's 54.4°C for the context.


The title should be edited by a moderator to at least add the unit, this feels like a clickbait otherwise.


I saw 130 and assumed from the context it wasn't in the order of 40 degrees hotter than the highest temperature ever claimed to have been recorded


what about wet-bulb temperature?


It's an EXTREMELY dry place (around 5%), so the web-bulb temperature is not especially high, an online calculator estimates numbers in the low 30s Celsius.


A wet bulb temperature of 35 Centigrade is fatal within hours even with shade and fan cooling.

"Low 30s" wet bulb is a very big deal.

Sourcing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wet-bulb_temperature#Wet-bulb_...


Well, it's not called "Death Valley" because of the landscape.


Based on reanalysis data, it looks like wetbulb temperature never goes above 25C around Death Valley. Average temperature seems to have gone up by about 2 degrees Celsius since 1980 though, from ~19.5 degC to ~21.5 degC.

Ref: ERA5 data & https://climate-explorer.oikolab.com


Really, we should be measuring max temp by wet bulb. There are places that are literally fatal to sit outside in, but Death Valley ain't one of them.


If the relative humidity is low enough, it might be 25°C or less.[0]

0) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychrometrics#/media/File:Psy...


I will say it like this. I would spend 24 hours in death valley than 2 in Singapore...


Thanks!


What about in kelvin!


Celsius to Kelvin is easy: just add 273.


327.55 K


Oh no, not this again!

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24118715

If the diameter of a coin is 19 mm, the circumference is not 59.6902604182 mm


I doubt your coin's diameter is exactly 19mm. By omitting digits after the decimal you are misleading people into believing that your number is more accurate than it really is.

If you round 327.55 K to 328K and convert that back to Celsius you end up with 54.85°C instead of the original 54.4°C. Increasing inaccuracy by half a degree for the sake of inaccuracy is bad science.


> By omitting digits after the decimal you are misleading people into believing that your number is more accurate than it really is.

Digits omitted at the right mean we don't know them, not that they are zero.

> and convert that back to Celsius you end up with 54.85°C instead of the original 54.4°C.

Yes, inaccuracy accumulates when you convert back and forth. But it's common practice in physics not to increase the number of significant digits to not give the impression a measurement is more precise than it actually is.

In this specific case: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Significance_arithmetic#Multip...

And when precision really matters, then one should explicit the range (eg. +/- after the absolute unit)


> 328K and convert that back to Celsius you end up with 54.85°C

No, that's wrong. If you convert 328K to Celsius, you get 55C. You can't add arbitrary precision to a number. The correct calculation for a whole degree is:

54C => (54 + 273)K => 327K

If you want a single decimal place of precision:

54.4C => (54.4 + 273.2)K => 327.6K

You can then subtract 273.2 to convert back, and you get the 54.4C you started with.


It wasn't 54.4°C though! The original value was only 130 °F which is probably between about 54.2 and 54.7 °C but somebody made it look more accurate during that first conversion which fooled you with the very thing you're saying is OK.

You're bound to sometimes lose information doing round trip conversions no matter how many digits you have so don't do that if you care about keeping as much precision as possible.

The Guardian reported it as 129.9 °F because they converted twice!


I find it a bit amusing that we treat as gospel the use of in-band signaling to try to cram a half-assed error propagation into the value we're trying to convey. It's not a terrible system, but there's nothing inherently better about throwing away a modest amount of information about both a value and its error than throwing away a negligible amount of information about a value and a majority of what we know about its error.


Yea it's not nature's way, just a convention. But it's an intuitive convention because it's easy to assume that digits which are shown are correct and digits which aren't shown are unknown. The alternative - throwing away the majority of information about the error would make lots of numbers pretty useless. Is 130 F really 100 F with too many digits?


and in British Thermal Units?


BTUs are energy, not temperature.


HN is predominantly American so "degrees" is implicitly assumed to be "degrees Farenheit", but for the non US folks here, 130F = 54.4C.



I rode my motorcycle through Death Valley just last month and it was an unseasonably cool 105 F. The average for that time of year is 113 F.

"Climate change" used to be more commonly referred to as "global warming", but my understanding now is that climate change is actually causing more volatility in the climate, meaning larger swings in temperatures, which has other impacts on things like tornadoes and blizzards.

Is this assessment accurate? I'd love to have a better understanding of the effects of climate change.


On a side note: Why did the US fight an independence war, but then used imperial units?


And here I am in Sweden where we've had the coldest july since the 60's.


This article is about temperatures in August.


And my comment was about temperatures in July.


Why were there so many heat records in the 30s and 40s?

First time they'd been measured? Solar activity?



Celcius of american degrees?


The image in the article shows it's measured in Fahrenheit.

For those working with Celsius: its 54,4 degrees.


> For those working with Celsius

So literally everywhere except:

United States, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Liberia, Palau, The Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands.


Archer: 'cause you never think of those other two as having their shit together.


If a temperature above boiling point of water had been recorded it would have been headline news about the end of the world. Normal high temperatures are in the 30-50 range, I could believe 70 or 80 could be recorded, but 130 is so far above the realms of possibility that it's clearly not Celsius


Hopefully someone cooked an egg on the sidewalk.


130 degrees is hot enough to leave a steak outside and let it sous vide in the air.


In Death Valley it's hot enough to make jerky, but not sous-vide steak. Dry air does not have enough thermal transfer to cook a steak before sucking all of the moisture out of it...


Isn't that why you're supposed to seal it?


actually depending on the steak it might not be. I just did a nice roast today for 11 hours at 180f... it was a nice solid 131 in the middle at the end. Now I can't be sure the inside of the smoker was actually 180 but it takes 11 hours at "180" to get to 131 temp, doing 11 hours at 130 isn't really going to get you there. Also thats in a humidified smoker. That steak gonna get realllly dry just being out in 130 degrees in death valley at 5% humidity.

Remember water conducts way more heat than air.

Also egg whites don't set up until 150 or so, and yolks start firming at 158, so at 130 that's going to be a real runny egg unless you put it on say a black sheet of metal.


> Also egg whites don't set up until 150 or so, and yolks start firming at 158

Eggs (especially the yolks) actually have an odd trait of setting at lower temps if held long enough. Try sous-vide eggs at 145 for 2-3 hours and compare to 45 minutes - completely different yolk.


what would you recommend then as the best way to sous-vide eggs? I can't find a good answer online. well I can find lots of answers but a lot of them are wrong


Set up a couple of cardboard sheets covered in alfoil to modestly concentrate the sun's rays and it would be plenty. Some simple solar cookers are nothing more than an open box covered in something shiny with the food inside it.

(Yes I know it's cheating a bit but it'd work. :)


Note: The GP said "Air Sousvide" not "build a solar oven". And note I did mention using a surface that would raise the temp.

Your solar oven would not work in the shade, which is where this 130 temp was taken.

Solar ovens are fun tho, the mcguyver of "well it's effing hot and sunny out I might as well make some good steak".


It probably would if you leave it in direct sunlight though.


It’s the dry heat.


That's 55° Celsius for all of you using intelligent units.


so we had higher temperatures pre 1931?


We should flood it with seawater.


Not too far north of Death Valley is Mono Lake.

You go there and the lake looks... concentrated.

I recall reading something Mark Twain wrote about it:

"The lake is two hundred feet deep, and its sluggish waters are so strong with alkali that if you only dip the most hopelessly soiled garment into them once or twice, and wring it out, it will be found as clean as if it had been through the ablest of washerwomen’s hands."

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3177/3177-h/3177-h.htm


The lake looks concentrated because Los Angelas took all the water.

Look up the Los Angelas Aqueduct.


I didn't realize LA reached quite that far away, but you're right. amazing.


Off topic, but the tufas at Mono are incredible. But please stay on the trail if you go!


You just described the Salton Sea.

Spoiler alert: people put terrible contaminants in the water that are now dust-borne, and it smells terrible. These are unrelated phenomena.


Wasn't the Salton Sea filled by the Colorado River?

I hope someday they connect it to the sea. The area below sea level, El Centro and such, is good for farming, but another inland port seems like a reasonable trade. I'm sure the residents would disagree though. Given enough time, nature will do it for us, as that is one of the rare places where a rift valley is forming on land.


http://www.fdungan.com/salton.htm

"Metcalf & Eddy, a Massachusetts based firm with almost a century of experience in large scale water resources management, has proposed building two canals, the largest of which would be navigable for ocean going vessels. The cost for digging the U.S. section is estimated at $300 million, with the final pricetag for the completed canals approaching $3 billion. While this is indeed a considerable chunk of money, it is nonetheless a good bargain, considering the increased revenue in land and commerce taxes which local governments stand to gain."


The state capital of Baja California is also less than 10 miles away from El Centro containing upwards of a million people dependent on the fact truck & rail are prioritized over US waterways, which is also at the center of one of Mexico’s very few easily productive agricultural regions (which relies on a canal that would be underwater).

Mexicali https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexicali


It would evaporate leaving salt.


Don't stop, just keep flooding it. Aren't the ice caps melting? Eventually an ecosystem will form.


There's an ecosystem there now, people just don't want to learn about it.


Ok, a better ecosystem?


Like the Salton Sea not too far away? F that, give me the clean desert over that mud pit.


Salton Sea is indeed gross, but it used to be a lake, but then drained, so I understand it's a mix of farm runoff and dead fish.

My comment was in jest anyways, nothing wrong with the Death Valley ecosystem.


One of the proposals for flooding the Salton Sea includes using the local geothermal power for desalination and irrigation.


Continuous inflow isn't the problem, outflow is the problem. With no outflow aside from evaporation, it would just get continuously saltier.


Like the Dead Sea?


could call it the death sea


https://what-if.xkcd.com/152/ reckons that would not end well.


Because?


Actually probably the highest temperature legitimately recorded, as the 1931 temp was probably wrong.


What kind of comment is this? Sorry, we had more than mastered the thermometer and proper record keeping by 1931. Some weather stations in the US have had their highs and lows continuously recorded since 1870, which is when the National Weather Service was established. Of course, the history of record keeping for temps and predicting weather was extremely important for farmers and the Farmers Almanac has been published since Ben Franklin's time.

The 1930s were an extremely hot decade. The Dust Bowl happened in part because of the extreme heat and drought during this decade. It exacerbated the Great Depression.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1936_North_American_heat_wav...

https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/dust-bowl?mediatype=photo...


Since it looks like you didn't read the article before going on a rant, I'll paste the relevant portion for you.

>Death Valley famously holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, which is 134 degrees. This record was set on July 10, 1913. However, that measurement is very much in question; an extensive analysis of that record conducted in 2016 by Christopher Burt, an expert on extreme weather data, concluded it was “essentially not possible from a meteorological perspective.”


I'm sorry but one guy's analysis nearly 100 years later is not enough to debunk a weather record. One was a recorded observation by someone with no incentive to lie and the other is just conjecture. Of course it's not impossible.


Here's a more thorough description of their research:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/...

> First, the temperatures reported in Death Valley when the record was set were “not consistent” with weather observed in the same region at the same time

> Second, neighboring weather sites did not post temperatures that were unusually hot.

> Third, Reid and Burt assert the weather observer at the time, Oscar Denton, was inexperienced and may have even fudged the numbers. “The heat wave in July 1913 was the first such he was ‘in charge of’ as an official COOP observer..."


From the National Park Service: "During the heat wave that peaked with that record, five consecutive days reached 129° F (54°C) or above."

https://www.nps.gov/deva/learn/nature/weather-and-climate.ht...

In fact, the temp broke 125F for a stretch of 10 days in a row.

So there was a well documented, well published record of a heat wave going on in Death Valley at that time. It is not impossible just because someone wants to FUD 100 years later.

From Chris Stachelski on NOAA's website:

"Weather observations in the modern record at Death Valley began at the Greenland Ranch in 1911." So the observer had more than 2 years of consistent recordings before this record was hit. He was not "inexperienced".

https://vlab.ncep.noaa.gov/web/nws-heritage/-/one-hot-weathe...

Death Valley has extremely unique geography.

From Andrew Palmer, meteorologist, in Monthly Weather Review (1922)

"The temperature of 134° F. recorded on July 10, 1913 is believed by meteorologists to be the highest natural air temperature ever recorded with a tested standard thermometer exposed in the shade under approved conditions."

(Below copied from PDF, with link below which has excellent analysis of why Death Valley is so unique)

"The excessive heat of Death Valley is easily expldned. Situated \\-ell to the south of the summer storm tracks, there are no alternnting weather conditions such ns characterize the passage of HIQHS and LOWH. It is a typical solar climate, solar insolation being the c.hief control. During the long summer days the air is escan- sively heated by the high sun, as there is too little mois- ture in the air to permit the formation of clouds. Esc~s- sive heating causes a$cenrling currents, and nir sli s place of air rising over the valley iloor. The air w1iic.h slips down the IiiountrLin slopes is heated dynaniica.llp as it descends. The winds are local nnd convectional. The desert sand, gravel, rocks, nnd salt arc so highly heated durinw the lon days t1ia.t they do not have 01’ or- The cumulative effects of theso various agencies ro"

https://journals.ametsoc.org/mwr/article/50/1/10/87157/DEATH...

Article from 1922 even includes a photo of the weather station at Greenland Ranch.

ftp://ftp.library.noaa.gov/docs.lib/htdocs/rescue/mwr/050/mwr-050-01-0010.pdf

Sorry, not buying the FUD.


The original article from Burt has much more info: https://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/an-invest...

- “About September 1912, Oscar Denton replaced Thomas Osborne as the Greenland Ranch USWB COOP weather station observer. Denton, of San Diego, began signing the USWB COOP forms in September, but the first form with data in his handwriting was December 1912. Denton served as the observer, caretaker, and foreman of the ranch for the Pacific Coast Borax Company until mid-August, 1920. Thus, Denton’s first full summer as the weather observer was the summer of 1913.”

- “When rain fell at the ranch, recorded amounts were almost invariably in the amounts of 0.01”, 0.10”, 0.20”, and 0.30”.”

- “There were occasional periods when the daily maximum and minimum temperatures would take on a persistent and rather unnatural numerical pattern.”

- “These instances suggest that Denton may have been just ‘filling in the blanks’ for days when he missed taking the observations.”

The original article list many other issues.

All in all it seems Denton wasn’t the most professional observer. Obviously 100 years later anything is difficult to proof, but it seems very likely that not enough care was taken when recording the numbers.


Of course it's not impossible.

Sorry, but "of course" is like betteridges law of headlines to me: this begs questions. It goes to <citation needed>. You can't say "of course" without anyone asking "why of course"


I also distrust "of course" - perhaps even more than you. Sometimes people say "of course" to hide the "citation needed", which is bad enough. But sometimes it's even worse: They use it to try to make something patently absurd sound commonplace. I've seen it used that way several times.


Why do you say that?



My car registered 114 as I passed through Stockton, CA today.


My apartment (in San Francisco) feels about the same right now without AC.


coldest july in many places around the world: "local temperature is not climate!"

one place has a temporary record: "definite proof of climate change!"

I know climate change is a real issue, but I can see how the media machine is helping in producing skeptics

oh, and the dogmatic aspect of it all as well, where even skirting on the _side_ of the _very real_ communication problem gets heavily downvoted


The "media machine" isn't helping produce skeptics, a significant percentage of people will always believe in nonsense.

Astrology, homoeopathy, telepathy, seances, conspiracy theories; the world in awash in centuries old nonsense.

You can't produce evidence, proof, arguments, or rationalization to assuage these people of their beliefs, they are stubborn in them.

Same with climate change denialists.

The ONLY problem is we give them a voice. We don't say have a metrologist and a fortune teller on to hear both sides of a forecast but there's still an insistence on having some climatologist who knows what they are talking about and some random hothead who works at a PR firm for Exxon when talking about climate change for the viewer to "decide".

Nonsense! It takes years of specialized study, the viewer isn't qualified to decide, that's the media's job, to not put on PR spinster horseshit and claim it as potentially valid.

There will always be large pool of nonsense. We need to stop dipping our toes into it and amplifying those voices in critical urgent issues such as climate change. We don't have the time for the bullshit.

For all the talk we do about "bold disruptive innovation" it's all nonsense, we are propping up industries that are killing the planet through nonstop bullshit because we don't want to rock the boat too much on power and profit structures.


That's a strawman of the article, nowhere does it claim this reading is proof of climate change.


> Scientists have found that the intensity, duration and frequency of heat waves worldwide are increasing due to human-caused climate change. A 2019 study found the planet has entered a “new climate regime” with “extraordinary” heat waves that global warming is worsening.

they're definitely making the connection.

did you read the article?


They not saying "this reading show climate change is true", they're saying "climate change (which is an accepted theory in the field) predicts readings like these will become more common".


that's just bog standard plausible deniability, when a journalist put two things in a single page you know damn well they want the reader to make the connection and fill in the dot for them, and apparently it works since there's people white knighting for them, which circles me back to the initial topic: it's so damn easy to manipulate people to defend opinions not theirs, it's a wonder society can still function under this constant siege.


Of course they're making a connection, I didn't deny that. I'm saying that connection goes the other way. But if you're going to discount anyone who disagrees with you as just "manipulated", there's no point in keeping this discussion. Have a nice day.


Lets put this to the test from first principles. For this to be truly the hottest temperature:

- All points that we know to be possible candidates for the hottest temperature should have been measured. Lets say any spot within 10% of 130 should be recorded. So all spots that had measured temperatures 115+ in the last two decades should have been continuously recorded since 1931. I doubt this is true.

- Are we are measuring all possible points on earth where highest temps are possible? This is an "All Swans are White" category of pronouncement. Given how much of the earth is still remote, war torn and just not probed out, I doubt this is true.

These pronouncements from journalists are infuriating. These journos typically have zero training in scientific rigor and very strong ideas of their own efficacy. Woe to the scientists who encourage these statements. Alarmism sells more copies (or clicks) than tempered scientifically accurate statements.


The headline is where the problem is. The article itself is careful to use qualifiers like observed and measured.


It's always a joy to see posts that derive stuff from first principles in order to call out journalists for lacking scientific rigor.


Thank you. Appreciate your comment even more since my comment was down voted :)




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