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13 July 2021

Two of the three hottest ever temperatures on Earth were recorded this year

California’s Death Valley has broken the all-time world air temperature record with 54.44°C.

By Ben van der Merwe

A small hamlet in California’s notorious Death Valley has broken what is thought to be the all-time world air temperature record for the second time in two years.

Furnace Creek, which has a population of 108, recorded an air temperature of 54.44°C on 9 July, beating the record it set last year (54.39°C). The hamlet also recorded a temperature of 54.1°C the following day, the third highest ever reliably recorded.

 

World temperature records have been broken with increasing frequency in recent years due to global heating. In June 2021 Canada broke its temperature record amid a deadly heatwave, recording a temperature of 49.6°C in Lytton, British Columbia. Hundreds of excess deaths have been attributed to the scorching temperatures, which scientists say would have been “virtually impossible” without man-made climate change.

Also in June 2021, Moscow recorded its highest temperature for 120 years (34.8°C), and in February 2020 the highest ever temperature was recorded in Antarctica (18.3°C).

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The heatwave in the western US has resulted in what scientists have described as “potentially the worst drought in 1,200 years”. The drought threatens to empty the Hoover dam, and has caused deadly wildfires in California and Oregon.

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Global average temperatures have risen by 0.48°C in the past two decades, according to Nasa. The minimum extent of Arctic ice cover has dropped by 41.7 per cent over the same period, a rate of 140,000 square kilometres per year, helping to raise sea levels by 7.1cm.