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54.4°C temperature in California's Death Valley could be new record

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The temperature was recorded in California's Death Valley National Park, one of the hottest places on Earth
The temperature was recorded in California's Death Valley National Park, one of the hottest places on Earth   -   Copyright  Brian Melley/AP
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A desert weather station in the United States has registered what could be the hottest temperature on the Earth's surface in over 90 years.

The 130°F (54.4°C) reading was measured on Sunday afternoon near the Death Valley National Park visitor centre at Furnace Creek, California.

The US National Weather Service said it was a preliminary reading and required a formal review.

But, if confirmed, it would be the hottest temperature recorded since July 1931, when a 55°C reading was measured at Kebili, Tunisia.

The World Meteorological Organization said it would verify the reading

"This temperature was measured at Furnace Creek near the Visitors Center using a National Weather Service owned automated observation system," the US National Weather Service in Las Vegas said in a statement.

"As this is an extreme temperature event, the recorded temperature will need to undergo a formal review.

"A Climate Extremes Committee will be formed to verify the validity of the 130°F reading."

California is in the midst of a summer heatwave that has brought wildfires and flash lightning, but Sunday's reading came as records consistently show global temperatures are steadily rising.

Two of five hottest surface temperatures ever recorded on Earth’s surface were measured in recent years: in Kuwait in 2016 and Pakistan in 2017.

If the Death Valley temperature is verified, it would be the third highest in history.

Top 5 hottest temperatures on Earth

1) 56.7°C — Death Valley, California, US (July 1913)
2) 55.0°C — Kebili, Tunisia (July 1931)
3) 53.9°C — Mitribah, Kuwait (July 2016)
4) 53.7°C — Turbat, Pakistan (May 2017)
5) 52.0°C — Mexicali, Mexico (July 1995)

Source: World Meterological Organization

According to the WMO, the highest temperature recorded in continental Europe was 48.0°C, measured in Athens on 10 July 1977.

European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3 imagery
Heat map of land surface temperatures in California's Death ValleyEuropean Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3 imagery

Furnace Creek in Death Valley was also the location of the highest temperature reading in history: 134°F (56.7°C) in 1913.

That measurement was verified by the World Meterological Organization (WMO), but is disputed by other meteorologists, who say it was taken by an inexperienced observer and is "not consistent" with other readings at the time.

Greenhouse gases are still being emitted at high levels even though the world's economy has slowed down because of the coronavirus.

Oksana Tarasova, the head of the WMO's Atmospheric Environment Research Division, told Euronews in April that reduced emissions in a particular year were unlikely to have an impact on overall global levels of carbon dioxide (CO2).

"If we look at how the levels of atmospheric CO2 are formed, it's not annual emissions in particular which are controlling the levels; it's the whole accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times which actually form the current level," she said.