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High Temperature at Death Valley

  • 18 Aug 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, Death Valley (USA) registered a temperature of 54.4°C which, once verified, could be the highest temperature in more than a century.

  • The temperature was recorded at the USA National Weather Service’s automated weather station at Furnace Creek on 16th August 2020.
  • The Death Valley in southeastern California is the lowest point in the North American continent, and is a National Park. It is also the hottest and driest part of the continent.

Key Points

  • The temperature has been termed as preliminary and not final as it awaits verification.
  • According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Death Valley’s all-time record high is 56.7°C taken on 10th July 1913 at Greenland Ranch.
    • It still stands as the hottest ever recorded on the planet’s surface.
    • However, since the temperature-recording mechanisms a century ago were not as advanced, many have doubted if that reading was reliable.
  • Cause:
    • The high temperature is a result of a ‘heat dome’ that is smothering the west coast of the USA.
      • Heat Domes: High-pressure circulation traps hot ocean air like a lid or a cap trapping heat at the surface and favouring the formation of a heat wave.
      • Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.
  • Effects of Extreme Heat:
    • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), extreme heat can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions, including respiratory diseases, heart conditions and kidney disorders.
      • The immediate effects on the human body are heat cramps, dehydration and even potentially fatal heat strokes.
    • It can also have a severe impact on agriculture and forests.
      • It either causes vegetables to wilt and die or encourage the spread of plant diseases.
      • It causes wildfires which lead to forest cover reduction and death of fauna.
    • It affects infrastructure too by straining power grids and causing blackouts. It can ground planes, melt roads and cause the inside of vehicles to overheat to dangerous levels.

Source: HT

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