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