Following years of tireless investigation, the World Meteorological Organization announced Tuesday that two recent temperature readings have been accepted among the hottest recorded on Earth.
One of the scorching marks was in the Middle East, the other in South Asia.
It hit 129 degrees (plus or minus 0.1 degrees uncertainty) in Mitribah, Kuwait, on July 21, 2016, and 128.7 degrees (plus or minus 0.4 degrees uncertainty) in Turbat, Pakistan, on May 28, 2017.
“The Mitribah, Kuwait temperature is now accepted by the WMO as the highest temperature ever recorded for the continental region of Asia,” the organization wrote. It continued, “the two observations are the third (tied within uncertainty limits) and fourth highest WMO-recognized temperature extremes.”
These are the highest recognized temperatures in 76 years.
Notably, the WMO list of highest global temperatures does not include 129.2 degrees recorded in Furnace Creek at Death Valley, Calif., on June 30, 2013. But there’s a reason. That location was even hotter in 1913 when it reportedly hit 134 degrees, recognized as the hottest temperature recorded on Earth. But some experts question its validity. It was recently described as “essentially not possible.”
Randall Cerveny, chief rapporteur of the WMO committee for evaluating climate and weather extremes, said of the Death Valley reading in 2013: “The WMO does not verify a record through its extreme evaluation process unless it is a new global, hemispheric or continental extreme record.”
It’s a similar story for the second highest recognized temperature, 131 degrees, from Kebili, Tunisia, set July 7, 1931, Africa’s hottest temperature. This record has “serious credibility issues,” said Christopher Burt, an expert on extreme weather data.
Considering the questions that swirl around the two hottest recorded temperatures (Death Valley in 1913 and the 1937 Tunisia reading), the Death Valley (2013) and Mitribah (2016) temperatures could, in fact, be the highest reliably measured on record. Since it’s unclear whether the 2013 Death Valley reading will ever be formally recognized and/or the 1913 reading invalidated, we may never know for sure.