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Death Valley hits 53C - world's highest temp of 2021

Ben Domensino, Friday June 18, 2021 - 10:34 EST

A weather station at Furnace Creek in California's Death Valley just hit 53ºC, setting a new mark for our planet's highest temperature so far this year.

A record-challenging heatwave has been gripping the Western United States over the past several days under the influence of a broad and slow-moving ridge of high pressure. Earlier this week, Salt Lake City registered its equal highest temperature on record.

The oppressive heat has hit the country in the final days of spring, with the US recognising the June solstice (June 20th / 21st) as the official first day of summer.

As of 3pm local time on Thursday, June 17, Furnace Creek had reached a preliminary maximum temperature of 53.2ºC (127.7ºF). This is the highest temperature recorded anywhere in the world so far this year.

Image: Weather observations from Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley, California on Thursday, June 17. Source: NOAA / NWS

While Furnace Creek's June record of 53.9ºC (129ºF) is still standing for now, Thursday's 53.2ºC is the highest temperature observed anywhere in the world during the middle third of June.

Furnace Creek is famous as the current maximum temperature world record holder, thanks to an eye-watering 56.7ºC (134ºF) on July 10, 1913. While some weather historians doubt the legitimacy of this observation, it has been assessed and accepted by the World Meteorological Organization.

Image: Badwater Basin in Death Valley, not too far down the road from Furnace Creek. Source: garyaritchie / Pixabay

Another standout temperature in California on Thursday was 50.6ºC (123ºF) at Palm Springs. This is the city's equal highest temperature in records dating back to 1893. The only other times it got this hot were July 28, 1995, July 29, 1995 and August 1, 1993.

This week's extreme heat is also raising bushfire concerns across drought-weary areas of the Western United States.

Prior to this heatwave, the US National Interagency Fire Centre had predicted above normal wildfire potential across large swathes of the Western United States between June and September. This outlook follows on from a devastating fire season in 2020, which ended up being the largest fire season on record in California's modern history.

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