World Heat Record Overturned--A Personal Account

By: Christopher C. Burt , 1:07 PM GMT on September 13, 2012

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World Heat Record Overturned--A Personal Account

Almost two years after my October 8, 2010 wunderground blog post, Questions Concerning the World Record Temperature of 58°C (136.4°F) at Al Azizia, Libya on September 13, 1922, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has come to the conclusion that the record, in fact, was invalid. Here is a personal account of how this decision came to be. The narrative below is adapted from a blog post I have written for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS).


A photograph of the trading post at Al Azizia, Libya taken in 1923. The photo was taken from the Italian military fort located on a small hill just south of the trading post. It was at this fort that the temperature of 58°C (136.4°F) was observed on Sept. 13, 1922 (Used with permission from the family of Gen. Enrico Pezzi).

As any weather aficionado can avow, Earth's most iconic weather record has long been the legendary all-time hottest temperature of 58°C (136.4°F) measured on September 13, 1922 at Al Azizia, Libya (also called El Azizia, there are many variant spellings). It is a figure that has been for meteorologists as Mt. Everest is for geographers. For the past 90 years, no place on Earth has come close to beating this reading from Al Azizia, and for good reason--the record is simply not believable.

In early March 2010, I was included in an email loop concerning questions about this record. The email discussion participants at that time included Maximiliano Herrera, an Italian temperature researcher and climatologist based in Bangkok, Piotr Djakow, a Polish weather researcher, and Khalid Ibrahim El Fadli, director of the climate department at the Libyan National Meteorological Center (LNMC) in Tripoli.

Previous to this discussion, I had generally accepted the Libyan world record as acceptable, although suspicious. The figure had been around for 90 years, and two previous studies by Amicare Fantoli (who was the man responsible for verifying the record in 1922) had more or less substantiated the extreme 58°C figure.

However, Piotr produced a chart of the monthly temperature amplitudes at Azizia for each September from 1921 - 1940, and this chart raised an alarm so far as the validity of the Aziza record was concerned. This was the first time that I began to really think something was not right about the record.


A chart showing the average monthly temperature amplitudes (difference between daily minimum and daily maximum temperatures) for Al Azizia during the month of September from 1919 - 1940. In 1927, the station was moved from the military fort on the hill to the town below and placed in civilian hands. (Chart produced by Piotr Djakow).

In September 2010, Weather Underground hired me as their Weather Historian, proposing that I write a weekly blog on extreme weather events and records. I decided that one of my first blogs should on the Al Azizia record (in fact it was the third blog I wrote for WU).

I was intrigued that El Fadli was skeptical of the Al Azizia 58°C figure, and requested more data. El Fadli’s enthusiastic and gracious response (to provide all and any weather data I might be interested in) was beyond my expectations. Past experience had shown me that many national weather bureaus consider their data proprietary and/or subject to excessive fees for access.

With El Fadli’s data on hand and after researching all (to me at the time) known other references concerning the Al Azizia event, I posted a blog on wunderground.com reflecting my findings on October 8, 2010. I forwarded a copy of this to Dr. Randy Cerveny, a professor at Arizona State University (ASU) and co-Rapporteur of climate and weather extremes for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

It should be noted that without the credibility of Weather Underground as my sponsor, Dr. Cerveny probably would not have taken the blog seriously. After all, many people in the past have questioned the validity of this record both in published works and on the Internet.

In any case, Randy picked up the ball and created an ad-hoc evaluation committee for the World Meteorological Organization to evaluate the record for the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes (http://wmo.asu.edu/). After this positive response from Randy, I asked El Fadli if Libya officially accepted the Azizia figure. He responded that they did not. Since records like this are, to a degree, the provenance of national interest and El Fadli responded that Libya did not officially accept the colonial-era data from Azizia (measured by Italian authorities at that time in Tripolitania), this became the catalyst to launch an official WMO investigation.

This would be an unprecedented investigation for this WMO extreme records evaluation committee. Rehashing old records is not the WMO Archive’s primary objective, which is to verify new potential records. As Dr. Tom Peterson of the US National Climate Data Center and President of the WMO’s Commission on Climatology (of which the Archive is a part), put it:

“To be honest, I was reluctant to reopen this question because other people had looked at the record in the past and it had been so widely accepted. I was particularly afraid that it would be an uncertain subjective opinion as to whether it was a bit off or not.”

Nevertheless, the investigation was approved and on February 8, 2011 an international team of climate experts was assembled (eventually 13 atmospheric scientists in all) by Randy. The official investigation began.

Amazingly, El Fadli had just uncovered a key document: the actual log sheet of the observations made at Azizia in September 1922 (see illustration further below). The log sheet clearly illustrated that a change of observers had occurred (as was evidenced by the hand written script) on September 11, 1922, just two days prior to the ostensible record temperature of 58° on September 13th. Furthermore, the new observer had interchanged the Tmin columns with the Tmax columns.


A copy of the log sheet from El Azizia for September 1922 found by El Fadli in January 2011. Image courtesy of the Libyan National Meteorological Center (LNMC).

Also, beginning on September 11th the Azizia maximum daily temperature records began to exceed by 7°C, on average, the other four stations reporting from northwest Libya (Tripolitania) at that time. That trend continued for the rest of the month (with a couple of days of missing data), and into October 1922.


A graph comparing the daily maximum temperatures observed in September 1922 at the five meteorological stations that existed in Tripolitania (northwestern Libya) at that time. There was an observer change at El Azizia beginning September 11th. (Graphic produced by Jim Petit).

Just as this key discovery (the finding of the original log sheet) was made, the Libyan revolution broke out. On February 15, 2011, we received the last message from El Fadli prior to the revolution. Col. Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, had shut down Libyan international communications.

Of course, without El Fadli’s critical input we could move no further with the investigation, and Randy called for a hiatus to further deliberations.

In early March, Gaddafi began airing long nightly rambling tirades on his government TV network. During one of these, he made an ominous reference to how NATO forces were using Libyan climate data to plan their assault on the country. My heart sank when I heard this. I immediately thought that our colleague, El Fadli--as director of the LNMC--must have been implicated by Gaddafi as providing weather information to the "enemy".

I must say, at that point, I--and the rest of the committee--thought El Fadli was a dead man.

We didn’t hear again from El Fadli until August 2011 when the revolutionary forces closed in on Tripoli. One of our committee members, Dr. Manola Brunet (WMO chair of the Open Programme Area Group on Monitoring and Analysis of Climate Variability and Change), who knew El Fadli personally, had up until then been unable to contact him by phone or email. Then on August 13, 2011, we received our first email from El Fadli.

El Fadli here relates the situation he faced during those long months when we lost communication with him:

“During that critical time all communication systems in Libya were shut down by the regime so it was impossible to communicate with anyone, even inside the country. Mobile telephone communications were restricted and even local calls were controlled and monitored. What was amazing however, believe or not, was that my office satellite Internet connection was still up and running. But using such posed serious dangers, if anyone discovered me I would probably lose my life. Hence, I never used that connection. The first 3 months (February-May) I was able to reach my office (my home being about 5 km east of El Azizia and 40 km to my office in Tripoli) but then in May we suffered from short fuel supplies, electricity, and even cooking gas. You can imagine how difficult our lives became! The other serious story involved the security situation. When I borrowed a car belonging to the local United Nations office (since I had no fuel for my own car) I was driving to morning prayers (04:00 am) with my sons and suddenly we came under gunfire from the back and rear of the vehicle. The vehicle was struck as I drove at a crazy speed with our heads ducked low. Our life was spared by the grace of God. This happened in late July.”

Then, as we all watched through the technology of television and Internet, by September 2011, the dictator Gaddafi was gone … and El Fadli was back!

With the investigation back on track, committee members made further progress in October and November. Dr. David Parker of the U.K. Met Office did a reanalysis of surface conditions across the Libyan region for September 1922. The results displayed a significant departure (up to 6 sigmas) from what the temperature observed at Azizia was to what the reanalysis plotted for the area. This was a key discovery, using technology that had never been available in past investigations of the Libyan record.



A chart produced by committee member David Parker following his reanalysis of the Azizia record. One could clearly see how the maximum temperature of 58°C in September 1922 was well beyond the top percentile that might have been expected.

Also, Philip Eden of the Royal Meteorological Society and others uncovered information concerning the unreliability of the Bellani-Six type of thermometer that had apparently been used at Azizia in September 1922. Of particular interest was how the slide within the thermometer casing was of a length equivalent to 7°C.  It would be easy for an inexperienced observer to mistakenly read the top of the slide for the daily maximum temperature rather than correctly reading the bottom of such slide, a point that El Fadli made in a message to me early on in the investigation.


A 1933 instrument catalog image of the Bellani-Six style thermometer. Image supplied by Paolo Brenni, President of the Scientific Instrument Commission, and courtesy of Library of the Observatorio Astronomico Di Palermo, Gisuseppe S. Vaiana.

With all the pieces of the puzzle now falling into place, a vote was taken in January 2012 resulting in a unanimous decision by the WMO committee members to disallow the Azizia record.

As Tom Peterson put it, “The eventual answer seemed so clear and obvious that we evidently must have done a far more in depth investigation than any earlier one.”

Conclusions
In the end, and based on the unanimous decision by the 13 committee members, Randy Cerveny and Jose Luis Stella of Argentina, (the WMO’s co-Rapporteurs of climate and weather extremes), rejected the 58ºC temperature extreme measured at El Azizia in 1922.

The WMO committee added the following comment to my blog as it appeared on the BAMS web site front page: ”An important aspect of this long investigation was that it just isn’t climatologists and meteorologists changing their minds. It goes beyond that. This investigation demonstrates that, because of continued improvements in meteorology and climatology, researchers can now reanalyze past weather records in much more detail and with greater precision than ever before. The end result is an even better set of data for analysis of important global and regional questions involving climate change. Additionally, it shows the effectiveness of truly global cooperation and analysis. Consequently, the WMO assessment is that the official highest recorded surface temperature of 56.7°C (134°F) was measured on 10 July 1913 at Greenland Ranch (Death Valley) CA USA.

I agree with this comment as well, although I still have my suspicions about the Greenland Ranch figure of 1913. Time for another investigation!

REFERENCE NOTE:For the official WMO assessment report and all the references associated therewith please see the September 2012 issue of BAMS magazine (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society).

KUDOS: Maximiliano Herrera for initially bringing the Azizia issue to my attention, Piotr Djakow for producing the first graphic that made the Azizia error so clear, Jim Pettit for helping me along the way with graphic analysis and encouraging advise, and Randy Cerveny for picking the ball up and championing the investigation. Also, of course, a big thanks to El Fadli without whom this investigation would never have happened, all the other WMO Committee members for their diligent work. In addition I want to thank Weather Underground, especially Jeff Masters and Shaun Tanner, for providing me the platform from which I can blow my horn!

Links:
Don't miss the 25-minute wunderground video,Dead Heat, a detective story on how the Al Azizia record was overturned.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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61. jdsau
12:45 PM GMT on January 09, 2013
The record may have been wrong, however the evidence is not as definitive as most here seem to believe. Too much assumption and guesswork.

Firstly it is my understanding that the type of thermometer used is not documented, so a particular type is being assumed.

Secondly, compare the Zuara and Khoms records for Sept 1922. These track pretty well apart from a mostly constant offset of about 10C. No evidence of an inexperienced operator taking the reigns on 11 Sept.

As for David Parker's graph, it's meaningless. Yesterday in Sydney we had a 42C maximum, with the temperature rising about 20C in 2 hours. Today the maximum was just 26C, while the previous day was similarly mild. So you think you can't get such a spike in temperature? Bad assumption.

Joe.
Member Since: January 9, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
60. CaliforniaMan
7:45 PM GMT on October 02, 2012
I sure hope that Death Valley's record of 134 isn't taken away without every other officially accepted (but suspicious) recorded temperature of 129 or above being investigated as well. As a Californian who's family has been here since the 1880's, I do take a certain amount of pride from living about 200 miles from Earth's hottest spot. I even visited Death Valley during the summer when the temperature was a rather chilly 115. The fact that Death Valley has reached 129 not once, but four times since 1960 seems to prove that, as far as we know, it is consistently the hottest spot on Earth. It really should keep the world record even if the 134 reading turns out to be an error.
Member Since: October 2, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
59. DocNDswamp
3:56 PM GMT on September 18, 2012
G'day all,
Nice links, Nea, thanks.

From the Red Orbit article, this quote sure brought a smile -

“In the heart of every meteorologist and climatologist beats the soul of a detective,” Cerveny said.

;)

Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 94 Comments: 4783
58. Neapolitan
12:47 PM GMT on September 18, 2012
Among the hundreds of online articles about the de-certification of the Azizia record I've run across, here are a few I really liked. They seem to be mostly the ones that wrote their own stories instead of simply repeating wire copy.

--Popular Mechanics

--Travelers Today (with a nice video)

--Discovery

--Red Orbit

Congratulations again, Chris, for a job well done...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
57. DocNDswamp
8:16 PM GMT on September 17, 2012
re: #56 ohoh -

Actually the NASA article states the hottest temps sat-estimated in the Lut Desert are measured over darkest gravel-covered regions. Additionally, a Wiki reference mentions - "The hottest part of Dasht-e Lut is Gandom Beryan, a large plateau covered in dark lava, approximately 480 square kilometres (190 sq mi) in area." So it's similar, composition-wise.

As for Lake Assal, within the Danakil Depression it's the lowest elevation in Africa reported at -509 ft (Wiki) or -512 ft (Nat Geo) below sea level, surrounded by volcanic mountains / dark lava, thus subject to extreme compressional heating, plus seething with geothermal activity from below. Considering the relative small areal size, the reflectance of white salt flats merely amplifies the intense heating effect from other sources... LOL, from the Nat Geo article mentioned (my own copy, unsure if available online) - "We reach the water's edge, and the depression has become a furnace. My thermometer, good for 50C, has gone off it's scale. The heat bakes us on all sides, so evenly that I cannot tell where the sun is without looking." - (Copyright, Curt Stager, National Geographic May 1990)
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 94 Comments: 4783
56. ohoh
6:35 PM GMT on September 17, 2012
How can a reddish sandy area like the Lutz desert beat the black lava rock of the Danikil??

What is the black body hot temperature equilibrium in space at our remove from the sun? That is the theoretical high for a temperature without focusing isn't ??
Member Since: September 17, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
55. DocNDswamp
6:16 PM GMT on September 17, 2012
Quoting ohoh:
If you had a working observation station in the Ethiopian Danikil, somewhere near lake abbe, how long do you think the current temperature record would last??

Is there any other point on the surface that might compete for the record?


Originally had this discussion last week on Dr Jeff's companion blog on this topic. I suggested Lake Assal as a prime candidate to set a new world record hottest temp were a reliable observation station established there, as numerous reports of high temps reaching 55-57C range have been published for decades, including an article in Nat Geo May 1990 on Africa's Great Rift Valley... Blogger Neapolitan also suggested Iran's Lut Desert as another prime hot spot, as satellite temp estimates - measuring land surface reflectance temp, not air temp at more standard 4-6 ft height - frequently had far exceeded either record at Al Azizia or Death Valley... as illustrated here, "The Hottest Spot on Earth".

My guess is the current record could likely be toppled at either, however given the hostile political / economical / civil unrest in the region, implementing such and obtaining the scientific documentation might prove difficult.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 94 Comments: 4783
54. ohoh
4:05 PM GMT on September 17, 2012
If you had a working observation station in the Ethiopian Danikil, somewhere near lake abbe, how long do you think the current temperature record would last??

Is there any other point on the surface that might compete for the record?
Member Since: September 17, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
53. abigailm
9:38 PM GMT on September 16, 2012
Fascinating story. So the temp was probably that 7° C less, the length of the marking slide.

Now somebody with a brain had better look at the nonsensical record of 0°F that Wunderground is showing this morning for Mattoon IL. The temp graph for this morning for Mattoon shows three downward spikes from the 40s to 0 and back up again. Something was clearly wrong in some wires somewhere. And the automatic system has picked it up and put in on the world Weather Events map on the front page of Wunderground. No way that is a valid reading, and embarrassing that it shows up on the world map.
Member Since: August 13, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
52. DocNDswamp
6:24 PM GMT on September 16, 2012
Thanks Chris, excellent narrative on the investigative work involved, fortunate to obtain such data and details on instrument and observer in this collaboration.

re: comments by maxcrc -
(edited)
As for the possibility of 50C plus being attained and exceeded in Africa, particularly in the Afar Triangle / Danakil Depression region - the hot salt flats of Lake Assal, Djibouti would be an ideal location to substantiate or disprove.

Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 94 Comments: 4783
51. Neapolitan
10:30 PM GMT on September 15, 2012
I see this story has gained worldwide traction, with news outlets around the globe picking up on it:

Google Search.

Even the Tripoli Post has something to say: http://www.tripolipost.com/articledetail.asp?c=1& i=9173

Excellent work, Chris!
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
50. maxcrc
8:58 PM GMT on September 15, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
The WMO is straightening that out at the moment, and promises to have things corrected shortly. http://wmo.asu.edu/

(Though the BAMS article states, "the new African highest temperature is now 55.0C (131F) recorded on 7 July 7 1931 at Kebili, Tunisia".)


Only retarded could believe to that joke of 55. Kebili has never ever ever ever ever approached 50 even during the strongest african heat wave in the last 200 years, not even 49C.
It is not by any means amongst the hottest places in Tunisia, overclassed by several stations (but only one El Burma has reached 50C albeit just once). 50C in Africa is almost impossible and 51C has never been touched anywhere not even in the not monitored places. The highest t ever recorded in Africa was 50.8C between 10 and 11km SW of Al Zwara on 26 June 1995. This including every square km of the whole continent with a maximum error of 0.1C.
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 143
49. maxcrc
8:51 PM GMT on September 15, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
As I stated--and many others before me have stated--modern temperature recording devices are thoroughly and accurately tested, calibrated, sited, read, and maintained. There are numerous standards to which each official surface station must comply, and if they fail to meet those standards, their data are rejected. Period. Now, one persistent (but discredited and thankfully on-the-wane) climate contrarian has long tried to make the case that the surface stations in the NOAA network are faulty, but it's been empirically proven time and again that those stations are as accurate as can possibly be. Some contrarians like to fantasize that low-paid government workers randomly nail thermometers to walls next to air conditioner units over hot asphalt parking lots and call it a day, but things don't really, of course, work that way.

The Death Valley 1913 reading has been analyzed and analyzed again, and it's been found that the reading was made on a standards-compliant instrument in a standards-compliant shelter by a thoroughly trained observer. None of that was true of the Azizia reading in 1922.


The ridicolus and obviously 100% fake 134F was analyzed by ignorants who have no the minimal knowledgment of climatology and meteorology.
the real air temperature never exceeded 120F for the whole month, as even a 2 years old could easily check by draw a couple of data of the atmospheric conditions of those days.
Greenland Ranch data until late 1920s is a total and complete DISASTER, with temperatures faked by as much as 50-60F, the worst climatic data ever seen.
Clearly you have no idea of what you are saying and you don't have the complete daily data of the Greenland Ranch station.
The observer was a disater since i took overnight minima even in the full of the afternoon some days.
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 143
48. maxcrc
8:43 PM GMT on September 15, 2012
I remember when I was 7 (i knew already the microclimates of every square meter of the whole planet ) and I almost vomited when I read about that absurde and obviously phisically impossible fake temperatures of Azizia, Greenland Ranch, Tirats Tsvi ,etc...
Only a people without even the minimal basic knowledgment of climatology might believe to that absurdity.
More than 25 years ago I published a much better investigation saying how fake and absurd (and obviously absolutely IMPOSSIBLE) were those records. At that time I was 13 and I was called by an editor of a geographic book to provide information about all climatic section.
Well, this has been a funny joke for children under 2 years old.... there are even some adults who believed to it and they even pretend to be experts of climatology. The whole world is laughing at their faces....
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 143
47. BruceK
8:31 PM GMT on September 15, 2012
Wow people! Great job to ALL involved!
Member Since: December 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
46. AlexanderD
7:01 PM GMT on September 14, 2012
Maybe I can share a bit of empathy on your Ethiopia reading of 53. I had the great good fortune as a climate buff to spend this summer in Djibouti. Generally the weather in coastal Djibouti is either wind from the west and very dry or wind off the sea and very humid. We had a relatively exposed constant-recording thermometer at about 2m above the ground. The relatively exposed part is that the gauge was only shaded for about two thirds of the sunlight hours, as the 10am to 2pm readings were in direct sunlight. Most days the temperature hit 40 shortly after breakfast, and would remain above 40 until two or three hours past sundown. Also, most days during the three summer months were recording 46-50 at full sun. Taking the non-direct sun readings as accurate, and assuming the full sun is the temperature our bodies are feeling, this climate was exceptional to live and work in. I'm sure this is common elsewhere in the Arabian peninsula area (Burt's Dharan dew point reference of 95 for example), but for 30 to 45 minutes on some days, the wind will switch abruptly from the west to the east and provide an surreal experience. These astounding (yes they are astounding to experience) conditions resulted in extremely high humidity and 43ish or so temperatures at the same time. What a great opportunity to experience this, and all the while remind myself I was still on planet earth . . .
Member Since: August 15, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
45. PireDude
5:50 PM GMT on September 14, 2012
Congratulations on this awesome accomplishment, Mr. Burt. Very impressive!
Member Since: October 1, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
44. pdjakow
2:13 PM GMT on September 14, 2012
Good work Chris :) I hope that many of these dubious old records will be revised.

Piotr Djaków
Member Since: August 8, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
43. Neapolitan
11:51 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
Quoting cjhendrix:
How (in)accurate was my own personal high temperature record?

In 2005, while working for the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE), I was traveling across the Danakil Depression. Around noon, we stopped the car to take a break from the long drive. Opening the car door was like opening an oven to check on a cake. The heat was an astounding, somewhat threatening force. I hung my little REI keychain thermometer in the shade of a bush, about 30cm above the shaded ground. A few minutes later it read 53C. This measurement was taken around -80m below msl, near 14.5831N 40.1747E.

So my question is, given the nature of the thermometer, it's low placement over natural, shaded earth, and other factors that I probably am not considering, how far off could my measurement have been?
Well, the shading was probably good, though 30cm is a little close to the ground; the internationally agreed-upon height is 1.25 meters (49.2"). Too, the thermometer could have been picking up heat radiating from the bush itself. Still, that's a miserably hot place; I'm no expert, but I'd guess your REI thermometer was likely in the ballpark, and certainly off by no more than ten degrees. And even 120 isn't very pleasant...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
42. cjhendrix
8:41 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
How (in)accurate was my own personal high temperature record?

In 2005, while working for the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE), I was traveling across the Danakil Depression. Around noon, we stopped the car to take a break from the long drive. Opening the car door was like opening an oven to check on a cake. The heat was an astounding, somewhat threatening force. I hung my little REI keychain thermometer in the shade of a bush, about 30cm above the shaded ground. A few minutes later it read 53C. This measurement was taken around -80m below msl, near 14.5831°N 40.1747°E.

So my question is, given the nature of the thermometer, it's low placement over natural, shaded earth, and other factors that I probably am not considering, how far off could my measurement have been?
Member Since: September 14, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
41. Ossqss
3:52 AM GMT on September 14, 2012


Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8183
40. Ossqss
1:52 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
Reading more into my statement than there really is, aren't you? I'm referring, of course, specifically to the single erroneous reading in Azizia in 1922. That reading was disqualified for a number of reasons, but the OP suggested that, since that particular reading was in error, all temperature readings must be in error. That's a silly assumption to make, if you ask me.


No, your intent conflicts with your intent.

Quite simple really.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8183
39. LowerCal
1:31 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
Quoting shauntanner:
Remember, if you would like to see all of the evidence that the committee saw to overturn the record, watch the documentary WU put together here.

http://www.wunderground.com/deadheat
Nice production, Shaun. :^)
Member Since: July 26, 2006 Posts: 58 Comments: 9137
38. LowerCal
1:29 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
Quoting Hinaea:
Before any modern day de-bunker carries any weight with me they must first prove they are not political operatives of any sort in fact non-partisan. There is no room in science for members of the Al Gore wing of the progressive party bringing PC political censorship, and yet again re-writing history to make their case. just sayin .... When they lower the record temps because the dire predictions of global warming fail to break records consistently, quick rename it to "climate change" no one can dispute that term and they will never notice.

The shift of terminology from "global warming" to "climate change" was actually the idea of Republican political consultant Frank Luntz.

Memo exposes Bush's new green strategy | Environment | The Guardian
....Monday 3 March 2003 20.48 EST

The US Republican party is changing tactics on the environment, avoiding "frightening" phrases such as global warming, after a confidential party memo warned that it is the domestic issue on which George Bush is most vulnerable.
....
The phrase "global warming" should be abandoned in favour of "climate change", Mr Luntz says, ....

Hinaea, you wouldn't be a partisan political operative re-writing history to make your case, would you?
Member Since: July 26, 2006 Posts: 58 Comments: 9137
37. Neapolitan
12:22 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
Quoting SLR:


You may disagree, but your defense of current technology has little to do with either the history of documented recordings, or with any of the other variables I cited that impact temperature readings. Plus, even with today's technology, the quality and consistency of temperature measuring devices in use around the globe are anything but uniform - which means that any variation in measurements becomes suspect.

If the current "record" being accepted is a century old, then clearly these past measurements do have a bearing on what is being regarded as historical fact and established maximums - comparing the measurement in Death Valley thus has nothing to do with being "fair". It has to do with accuracy and what is construed as factual.

One other variable that I forgot to add to my list above is reflected light and heat: even with sun-blocking devices installed to eliminate direct thermal radiation (which grossly affects any ambient heat measurement), reflected solar radiation can also have a severe effect - whether from sand, asphalt, soil, concrete, snow (for lowest temp recordings), adjacent windows, metal stripping, aluminum or vinyl siding - the list goes on.

I'm not suggesting that your measurements or those of any other current data collectors are shoddy - just that there are a host of influential variables that, regardless of the sophistication and accuracy of modern measurement devices, can affect temperature measurements, yet are not controlled. In fact, with more sophisticated devices, the tendency is to ignore these other variables and to place full trust in the device, ignoring other important factors.
As I stated--and many others before me have stated--modern temperature recording devices are thoroughly and accurately tested, calibrated, sited, read, and maintained. There are numerous standards to which each official surface station must comply, and if they fail to meet those standards, their data are rejected. Period. Now, one persistent (but discredited and thankfully on-the-wane) climate contrarian has long tried to make the case that the surface stations in the NOAA network are faulty, but it's been empirically proven time and again that those stations are as accurate as can possibly be. Some contrarians like to fantasize that low-paid government workers randomly nail thermometers to walls next to air conditioner units over hot asphalt parking lots and call it a day, but things don't really, of course, work that way.

The Death Valley 1913 reading has been analyzed and analyzed again, and it's been found that the reading was made on a standards-compliant instrument in a standards-compliant shelter by a thoroughly trained observer. None of that was true of the Azizia reading in 1922.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
36. Neapolitan
12:05 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
Quoting Ossqss:


Hence, you toss out the 160 years worth of records that provide the current ~ with today's global averages?

How much of the 1.4 degree F rise over that time frame (160 years)disappears with your thinking?


You said it, not me.......
Reading more into my statement than there really is, aren't you? I'm referring, of course, specifically to the single erroneous reading in Azizia in 1922. That reading was disqualified for a number of reasons, but the OP suggested that, since that particular reading was in error, all temperature readings must be in error. That's a silly assumption to make, if you ask me.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
35. SLR
12:00 AM GMT on September 14, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
I will have to disagree with you. It's not really fair, I don't think, to compare a piece of 1922 wartime technology with what we use now. The thing is, every modern temperature measuring device used for official recordkeeping has been thoroughly tested, calibrated, sited, and certified, and data from ones that don't meet a very precise and specific set of criteria are rejected.

I personally have more faith in modern scientific instrumentation than I do in practically anything else.


You may disagree, but your defense of current technology has little to do with either the history of documented recordings, or with any of the other variables I cited that impact temperature readings. Plus, even with today's technology, the quality and consistency of temperature measuring devices in use around the globe are anything but uniform - which means that any variation in measurements becomes suspect.

If the current "record" being accepted is a century old, then clearly these past measurements do have a bearing on what is being regarded as historical fact and established maximums - comparing the measurement in Death Valley thus has nothing to do with being "fair". It has to do with accuracy and what is construed as factual.

One other variable that I forgot to add to my list above is reflected light and heat: even with sun-blocking devices installed to eliminate direct thermal radiation (which grossly affects any ambient heat measurement), reflected solar radiation can also have a severe effect - whether from sand, asphalt, soil, concrete, snow (for lowest temp recordings), adjacent windows, metal stripping, aluminum or vinyl siding - the list goes on.

I'm not suggesting that your measurements or those of any other current data collectors are shoddy - just that there are a host of influential variables that, regardless of the sophistication and accuracy of modern measurement devices, can affect temperature measurements, yet are not controlled. In fact, with more sophisticated devices, the tendency is to ignore these other variables and to place full trust in the device, ignoring other important factors.
Member Since: March 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
34. Some1Has2BtheRookie
11:38 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting mtntrtl:
Thanks Christopher – I loved reading this investigative story. One of the many things that makes WU so fun!
(I guess I'm not so upbeat about some of the negative comments; though I did get a kick out of the little surprise I found in "room 24":)


My orderly is late too. No mop bucket needed here though. I only froth a little bit. ... A paper towel should suffice.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4733
33. Ossqss
11:36 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
I will have to disagree with you. It's not really fair, I don't think, to compare a piece of 1922 wartime technology with what we use now. The thing is, every modern temperature measuring device used for official recordkeeping has been thoroughly tested, calibrated, sited, and certified, and data from ones that don't meet a very precise and specific set of criteria are rejected.

I personally have more faith in modern scientific instrumentation than I do in practically anything else.


Hence, you toss out the 160 years worth of records that provide the current ~ with today's global averages?

How much of the 1.4 degree F rise over that time frame (160 years)disappears with your thinking?


You said it, not me.......
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8183
32. rlapadat
11:22 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting maxcrc:
The 55.0c at Kebili is 100000000 worse than Al Azizia, only a monkey can believe to this ridicolous and obviously impossible temperature. Of course, the 134F at the Death valley are BOGUS , so we have two WRONG temperatures instead one.
VERY HORRIBLE JOB, GUYS !
New world record of ignoran ce beaten

Maybe you will volunteer to to a better and more accurate job? It seems like this topic is very familiar to you...
Oh, and the Earth is flat and the center of the Solar system/Universe.
Member Since: October 10, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
31. mtntrtl
11:17 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Thanks Christopher – I loved reading this investigative story. One of the many things that makes WU so fun!
(I guess I'm not so upbeat about some of the negative comments; though I did get a kick out of the little surprise I found in "room 24":)
Member Since: January 16, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
30. Neapolitan
9:36 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting Hinaea:
Before any modern day de-bunker carries any weight with me they must first prove they are not political operatives of any sort in fact non-partisan. There is no room in science for members of the Al Gore wing of the progressive party bringing PC political censorship, and yet again re-writing history to make their case. just sayin .... When they lower the record temps because the dire predictions of global warming fail to break records consistently, quick rename it to "climate change" no one can dispute that term and they will never notice.
So am I to take it you believe that de-certifying a record set 90 years ago in favor of one set 99 years ago is somehow a leftist plot to prove GW?

Awesome thought process!

FWIW, I've a theory that the more times Gore's name is mentioned in a comment, the less truthful scientific content it contains. Thank you for adding more evidence to bolster that theory...

Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
29. Hinaea
9:11 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Before any modern day de-bunker carries any weight with me they must first prove they are not political operatives of any sort in fact non-partisan. There is no room in science for members of the Al Gore wing of the progressive party bringing PC political censorship, and yet again re-writing history to make their case. just sayin .... When they lower the record temps because the dire predictions of global warming fail to break records consistently, quick rename it to "climate change" no one can dispute that term and they will never notice.
Member Since: September 13, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
28. biff4ugo
8:47 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Congratulations on El Fadli's discovery work and your efforts to recreate the most accurate record possible.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 113 Comments: 1501
27. Neapolitan
8:39 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting SLR:
I've always wondered about temperature readings and how accurate any of them can be, even in modern times. There are so many variables at play that affect any reading: the type and quality/reliability of the measuring device; the placement of the device (location, elevation, material to which it is affixed affecting heat conveyance); the degre of exposure to direct sunlight and, if in shadow, the opaqueness of the shadow - even the projection of the surrounding shadowed area; the rate of any wind carrying heated air over the device; the training and inherent bias of the observer; the level of immediate secondary and independent verification; the integrity of the record-keeping and whether the original source material remains unaltered over time.

Considering these and many other factors that may influence the collection of the data, I think that temperature recordings are an inexact science at best, and that any purported "record" has to be regarded as no more than conjecture - its accuracy dubious.
I will have to disagree with you. It's not really fair, I don't think, to compare a piece of 1922 wartime technology with what we use now. The thing is, every modern temperature measuring device used for official recordkeeping has been thoroughly tested, calibrated, sited, and certified, and data from ones that don't meet a very precise and specific set of criteria are rejected.

I personally have more faith in modern scientific instrumentation than I do in practically anything else.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
26. Neapolitan
8:33 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting weatherhistorian:


Yes, for the time being the WMO is falling back on the Kebili temperature since it is the only excessive number with a specific date attached to it. I should mention that the Kebili (and most other pre-WW11 colonial African extreme heat records) are very suspicious and the WMO now recognizes this and will most likely begin a new investigation(s) into these records.
Thanks, Chris. Looks like you'll continue to be a busy man, then!

Again, excellent work...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
25. SLR
8:30 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
I've always wondered about temperature readings and how accurate any of them can be, even in modern times. There are so many variables at play that affect any reading: the type and quality/reliability of the measuring device; the placement of the device (location, elevation, material to which it is affixed affecting heat conveyance); the degre of exposure to direct sunlight and, if in shadow, the opaqueness of the shadow - even the projection of the surrounding shadowed area; the rate of any wind carrying heated air over the device; the training and inherent bias of the observer; the level of immediate secondary and independent verification; the integrity of the record-keeping and whether the original source material remains unaltered over time.

Considering these and many other factors that may influence the collection of the data, I think that temperature recordings are an inexact science at best, and that any purported "record" has to be regarded as no more than conjecture - its accuracy dubious.
Member Since: March 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
24. Some1Has2BtheRookie
8:09 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
We need an orderly sent to room 21, please. The patient is late for his medication. .... Bring a mop as well. There seems to be a lot of drool associated with this.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4733
23. robsobs
8:08 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Great work Chris, and everyone else who made the effort to correct this erroneous observation. It's great to see your passion in not only documenting the climatic extremes of our planet, but to validate their authenticity as well. Keep up the great work.

The insight into the possible mis-reading of the Bellani-six thermometer is particularly interesting. Misreading the top of the slide instead of the bottom makes a lot of sense, and clearly shows how a 7C error could have been made. In that case, the maximum temperature that day would have been a more credible 51C, not 58C.
Member Since: December 20, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 11
22. maxcrc
8:03 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
The 55.0c at Kebili is 100000000 worse than Al Azizia, only a monkey can believe to this ridicolous and obviously impossible temperature. Of course, the 134F at the Death valley are BOGUS , so we have two WRONG temperatures instead one.
VERY HORRIBLE JOB, GUYS !
New world record of ignoran ce beaten
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 143
21. maxcrc
8:00 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
The WMO is straightening that out at the moment, and promises to have things corrected shortly. http://wmo.asu.edu/

(Though the BAMS article states, "the new African highest temperature is now 55.0C (131F) recorded on 7 July 7 1931 at Kebili, Tunisia".)


THAT GARBAGE of 55.0C is 10000000000 worse than Al Azizia reading. Those inepts of WMO and NOAA know NOTHING, ZERO about climatology, they are STEALING the money of contributors. Only a retarded could imagine Kebili even going near 50C WHICH IS PHISICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. The 56.7C at Death valleys is OBVIOUSLY CRAP. The same that scam of the ridicolous 54.0C at Tirats Tsvi,the garbage of Rivadavia (overestimated by 10C) and the wrong European high, Antarctica high, South America high and low, African low. The same thing for 90% of the official US state records, which are from irregular (in best cases) to TRASH (in most cases). The ignorance of the people of WMO and NOAA is INFINITE. this is the only world record.
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 143
20. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
7:57 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
The WMO is straightening that out at the moment, and promises to have things corrected shortly. http://wmo.asu.edu/

(Though the BAMS article states, "the new African highest temperature is now 55.0C (131F) recorded on 7 July 7 1931 at Kebili, Tunisia".)


Yes, for the time being the WMO is falling back on the Kebili temperature since it is the only excessive number with a specific date attached to it. I should mention that the Kebili (and most other pre-WW11 colonial African extreme heat records) are very suspicious and the WMO now recognizes this and will most likely begin a new investigation(s) into these records.
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 267 Comments: 249
19. pcola57
7:53 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Thanks for all your hard work Chris..
And congratulations!!
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6667
18. Neapolitan
7:45 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Quoting ClimateChange:
I didn't see it mentioned in your post, but I was wondering if you know what is being recognized as the new record extreme maximum for Libya and the African continent in the wake of the decertification of the 136F reading at Al Azizia.
The WMO is straightening that out at the moment, and promises to have things corrected shortly. http://wmo.asu.edu/

(Though the BAMS article states, "the new African highest temperature is now 55.0C (131F) recorded on 7 July 7 1931 at Kebili, Tunisia".)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
17. MastaSki06
7:36 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Thank you for all of this information! Great job to everyone involved and very very interesting!!
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 153
16. ClimateChange
7:33 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
I didn't see it mentioned in your post, but I was wondering if you know what is being recognized as the new record extreme maximum for Libya and the African continent in the wake of the decertification of the 136F reading at Al Azizia.
Member Since: September 8, 2011 Posts: 8 Comments: 236
15. summerland
7:16 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
What a great detective story. Thanks for all the effort!
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 84
14. ClimateChange
7:07 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Very interesting read. Looking over the evidence, it seems pretty obvious the reading was in error. Wonder why the WMO never made a bigger effort to verify the validity of some of these old records before certifying them in the first place? A simple investigation would have raised red flags about that temperature reading.
Member Since: September 8, 2011 Posts: 8 Comments: 236
13. yoarkiv
6:48 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Very interesting read! I was particularly enthralled with the account from El Fadli about his experiences during the Libyan Revolution and the fact that this investigation very well could have been completely derailed because of it. Excellent work to all involved in this brilliant bit of scientific investigation!
Member Since: October 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2
12. pegleg666
6:19 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
Randy would probably appreciate the fact that John F. Griffiths always said that he found the 'record' to be very suspicious.

Bob Strauss
Member Since: October 10, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 2
11. KF4TVi
6:00 PM GMT on September 13, 2012
This is a great example of how science is supposed to work! Great job and thanks to everyone involved.
Member Since: August 6, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.