Death Valley is NOT the hottest place on Earth: New data shows Iran's Lut Desert is even warmer

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It’s often said to be the hottest place on Earth, but new data suggests that California’s Death Valley is not actually the warmest spot on our planet.

While the warmth of the air in Death Valley can reach 134.1°F (56.7°C), surface temperatures are actually much higher in two other locations – Iran’s Lut Desert and North American’s Sonoran Desert.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine found that surface temperatures in these two locations can reach blistering heights of up to 177.4°F (80.8°C), although the Lut Desert is more consistently hot.

Meanwhile, Antarctica holds the title for the coldest place on the planet, with chilly surface temperatures plunging to -199.6 °F (-110.9 °C).

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While the warmth of the air in Death Valley can reach 134.1°F (56.7°C), surface temperatures are actually much higher in two other locations - Iran's Lut Desert (pictured) and North American's Sonoran Desert

While the warmth of the air in Death Valley can reach 134.1°F (56.7°C), surface temperatures are actually much higher in two other locations – Iran’s Lut Desert (pictured) and North American’s Sonoran Desert

In the study, the researchers analysed high-resolution satellite data from the United States Geological Survey, looking at global surface temperatures over the past two decades. They found that Iran's Lut Desert is the hottest, while Antarctica is the coldest

In the study, the researchers analysed high-resolution satellite data from the United States Geological Survey, looking at global surface temperatures over the past two decades. They found that Iran’s Lut Desert is the hottest, while Antarctica is the coldest

The hottest and coldest places on Earth 

The warmth of the air in Death Valley can reach 134.1°F (56.7°C), but surface temperatures are much higher in two other locations – Iran’s Lut Desert and North American’s Sonoran Desert.

Surface temperatures in these two locations can reach blistering heights of up to 177.4°F (80.8°C), although the Lut Desert is more consistently hot.

Meanwhile, Antarctica holds the title for the coldest place on the planet, with chilly surface temperatures plunging to -199.6 °F (-110.9 °C).

In the study, the researchers analysed high-resolution satellite data from the United States Geological Survey, looking at global surface temperatures over the past two decades.

Their analysis revealed that the Lut Desert has the world’s hottest land surface, regularly reaching blistering temperatures between 2002 and 2019.

The desert is situated between a mountain range, meaning hot air is easily trapped in the sand dunes.

While a previous study, published in 2011, suggested that temperatures in the Lut Desert can reach 159.3°F (70.7°C), the new data suggests that this was likely an underestimate.

Instead, the researchers say temperatures in the Lut Desert are actually 10 degrees higher than thought.

The Sonoran Desert, which borders the US and Mexico, can also reach extremely high temperatures, although this happens less frequently than in the Lut Desert, likely due to its low elevation. 

That’s not to say that Death Valley isn’t also extremely hot – the area still holds the record for the hottest air temperatures on Earth.

While a previous study, published in 2011, suggested that temperatures in the Lut Desert can reach 159.3°F (70.7°C), the new data suggests that this was likely an underestimate. Instead, the researchers say temperatures in the Lut Desert are actually 10 degrees higher than thought

While a previous study, published in 2011, suggested that temperatures in the Lut Desert can reach 159.3°F (70.7°C), the new data suggests that this was likely an underestimate. Instead, the researchers say temperatures in the Lut Desert are actually 10 degrees higher than thought

The National Park Service explained: ‘The world record highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C) was recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. 

‘Summer temperatures often top 120°F (49°C) in the shade with overnight lows dipping into the 90s°F (mid-30s°C.)’

At the other end of the spectrum, the researchers confirmed that Antarctica has the coldest surface temperatures on Earth.

The Sonoran Desert, which borders the US and Mexico, can also reach extremely high temperatures, although this happens less frequently than in the Lut Desert, likely due to its low elevation

The Sonoran Desert, which borders the US and Mexico, can also reach extremely high temperatures, although this happens less frequently than in the Lut Desert, likely due to its low elevation

There, temperatures regularly hit -199.6 °F (-110.9 °C) – around 20 degrees lower than the estimates in the 2011 study.

In their study, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the researchers, led by Yunxia Zhao, explained: ‘Antarctica is surrounded by oceans, typically controlled by low-pressure systems.

‘This leads to strong winds from the center of the continent to its margins, contributing to record cold extremes.’

At the other end of the spectrum, the researchers confirmed that Antarctica has the coldest surface temperatures. Pictured are penguins in Atka Bay, Antarctica

At the other end of the spectrum, the researchers confirmed that Antarctica has the coldest surface temperatures. Pictured are penguins in Atka Bay, Antarctica

The team added that it remains unclear if surface temperatures in these areas are influenced by climate change.

‘While the behavior of the atmosphere in response to more anthropogenic emissions is well studied, the response of the land surface under different emission pathways is not well understood,’ they wrote.

‘It is hoped the future research in this direction can shed light on not only how extremes have changed in the past but how they will likely affect our planet in the future.’  

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