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Historic Heat and Tragic Fire this Sunday June 30, 2013

By: Christopher C. Burt, 4:53 AM GMT on July 01, 2013

Historic Heat and Tragic Fire this Sunday June 30, 2013

Two incredible stories are breaking news at this late hour on Sunday June 30th. One is the possibility of a reliable 130°F temperature having been attained at the Furnace Creek site in Death Valley. Confirmation of this will not be known until the 7 a.m. observation at the site on Monday morning. The other breaking news is a report that 19 firefighters have lost their lives battling a blaze in and around Yarnell, Arizona (about 55 miles northwest of Phoenix). If this report proves true it would be the most tragic rural wild fire event (so far as firefighters are concerned) since the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles in 1933 when 25-29 firefighters lost their lives (according to conflicting sources).

I’m sorry but as of 10 p.m. this Sunday night I am unable to confirm either of these two major events and will post a blog tomorrow, Monday July 1st, with details. However, it appears the tragic catastrophe is true according to this late report. This is the 2nd deadliest wild fire in U.S. history so far as firefighters are concerned. The deadliest event was that known as the 'Devil's Broom' wildfire in and around Silverton, Idaho on August 20, 1910 when 78 to 86 firefighters lost their lives (again the actual figure varies according to sources). The fire would also be the deadliest wild fire event (including residents) since the Oakland, California fire of October 20, 1991 that resulted in 25 fatalities (including one fire fighter and two policemen).

130° in Death Valley?

UPDATE July 1: The official maximum temperature at Furnace Creek, Death Valley for June 30th was 129°. This is a new June record for Death Valley.

Temperature records this Sunday (aside from Death Valley) included 117° in Las Vegas, tying their all-time record high temperature set on July 19, 2005 and July 24, 1942. A reading of 118° was apparently reported on July 21, 1931 at a site before the McCarran Airport became the official weather station for Las Vegas (I cannot confirm the validity of that 1931 reading). The potential Death Valley reading of 130° is spurred by a 4 p.m. observation of 128° on the official mercury thermometer in the shelter at the visitor’s center in Furnace Creek. An experimental electronic thermometer located just feet away from the official shelter registered 125.6° at 4 p.m. but then shot up to 129.1° by 4:43 p.m. So we may presume that the mercury thermometer followed suit and rose to at least 130° some time between 4p.m. and 5 p.m. On Saturday the official temperature actually rose to 128° after the 4 p.m. reading of 127° (a June record for Death Valley) whereas the electronic thermometer peaked at 126.2° a t 4:53 p.m.

Tonopah, Nevada reached 103° Sunday, just 1 ° short of their all-time heat record of 104° set on July 18, 1960. Needles, California hit 122° on Sunday, slightly cooler than the 124° measured on Saturday (which was 1° short of their all-time record of 125° set on July 17, 2005). Bishop, California reached 109° on Sunday, 1° short of their all-time record of 110° set on July 10, 2002. Needless to say, all the above records were also all-time June monthly records. Salt Lake City, Utah had a calendar day minimum of 80° on June 30th. This ties their all-time warm minimum last set on July 16, 2003. They recorded their hottest June temperature ever measured on both Friday and Saturday with 105° readings (it was 103° on Sunday).

It also appears that this June has been the warmest such on record for Las Vegas and Phoenix. Details available on Monday.

Monday will bring more record temperatures to the inter-mountain Southwest as one of the, if not THE, most formidable heat wave on record for the region continues to unfold.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Mini Blog Heat

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Thanks for keeping us posted, albeit the tragic news.
Late-breaking news from the Weather Historian.

You went above and beyond duty here. Thank you.

PS. I found this article very informative and has local details.

http://www.azcentral.com/news/arizona/articles/20 130630crews-fighting-small-fires-around-Arizona.ht ml?nclick_check=1

The difference between automatic and mechanic stations is that sudden changes in temperatures are usually "swallowed" at once by digital thermometers, while the old classic thermomters take awhile to adapt , . Since the start of the day at 6am I knew the matter of new world record or not would have been decided on "extra times". Since the official thermometer has no tags for decimals, in fact it might be a RULER which will determine if a record of 130F is set or a record of 129F is tied.
Who knows if someone in Las Vegas is betting money about this.
Unfortunately the news story of the 19 Fire Fighters perishing in the fire north of Phoenix has been confirmed .. very sad event ..
Where can I find actual readings from Furnace Creek?
Good post Chris..
My brother is here for a visit and lives in Prescott Valley, Arizona..
He was saddened by the news but like yourself is waiting for an official confirmation..
I'd also like to know where to find the official Furnace Creek conditions. Its entry here on Wunderground never has conditions.
Personal Account of the AZ Fire

A colleague of mine from the Arctic Sea Ice Forum lives in Prescott, AZ and shared this post on the Forum a few minutes ago:

The other day on another thread we were talking about the incredible temperatures out here in AZ and the southwest with some temps exceeding 120F yesterday and the day before. I also mentioned that at my house in Prescott, AZ we were at 38% of normal yearly rain and that we had not had a normal year of rain since 1998. Two weeks ago we had a wildfire on the north side of Prescott that burned about 7000 acres and very nearly burned large numbers of homes. In that fire a Prescott based elite fire crew called the Granite Mountain Hotshots (nationally certified as an elite unit) helped make a stand to protect the homes where the fire burned in so close that some of the houses were smoking and the yards burned. They truly put their lives on the line.

Yesterday afternoon we were overjoyed at our house when we got a hard thunderstorm and the first rain in about 100 days. Unfortunately the giant downdrafts from this huge storm were very hard and at that time the same fire crew mentioned above was making a similar stand to protect the little town of Yarnell just south of us from another wildfire started by lightning the day before. When the downdraft hit the fire line it instantly turned the fire around and moved it at speed right over the fire team and into the town. 19 Prescott firemen died and 200+ homes burned in minutes.

When we read about these droughts and the effects they will have on wildfires in the west over the next few decades this is what we will be seeing more often. One of my sisters lives in Colorado Springs and last year a fire that burned 350 homes stopped just a 1/2 mile from her house and then a couple of weeks ago on the other side of Colo Springs a wildfire burned 500 homes. It is only a matter of time before there is one of these fires that kills large numbers of people and destroys thousands of homes.

AZ Fire Disaster
It would seem useful for someone to put up 5 to 10 remote sensing thermometers in Death Valley in a few locations around Furnace Creek to see if anywhere is hotter. Particularly the lowest point in the park (-282 feet). Has anyone ever done this?

Also, has anyone ever looked into the validity of the June 1903 measurement in Volcano, CA? Yes, Salton Sea locations can be quite hot, but I find it highly questionable for such a temperature to occur anywhere other than Death Valley and perhaps a few towns along the lower Colorado river, e.g. Laughlin. If it was a heat flash from a decaying tstorm, fire winds or other freak occurrence, that shouldn't count.
I found this link:

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo =vef&sid=ISWC1&num=48

It shows conditions near Stovepipe Wells every five minutes for the past 48 hours. It's about 120F there now.
Quoting 7. Globe199:
I'd also like to know where to find the official Furnace Creek conditions. Its entry here on Wunderground never has conditions.

This URL has hourly updated temperatures at Furnace Creek, Death Valley Visitor Center. This is an experimental electronic thermometer being tested next to the official mercury thermometer:

http://amazon.nws.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/hads/interacti veDisplays/displayMetaData.pl?table=dcp&nwsli=DEVC 1

The Death Valley Furnace Creek link should be this--

http://amazon.nws.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/hads/interacti veDisplays/displayMetaData.pl?table=dcp&nwsli=DEVC 1

Or simply, here.
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