U.N. changes hottest-day-on-record date

Dec. 29, 2012 at 5:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The U.N. climate agency has changed the world's hottest day on record from Sept. 13, 1922, in Libya, to July 10, 1913, in California's Death Valley.

The World Meteorological Organization, the climate agency of the United Nations, announced the change Sept. 11 but the announcement failed to make headlines because of the shooting of American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, The New York Times reported.

Instead of the world's hottest day being Sept. 13, 1922 in Al Aziziyah -- when a 136.4-degree temperature was recorded -- the record is a 134-degree reading registered July 10, 1913, at Greenland Ranch.

Christopher C. Burt, a meteorologist with Weather Underground, cited a number of reasons for questioning the Libyan reading.

"The more we looked at it, the more obvious it appeared to be an error," Burt said.

Burt brought his evidence to the attention of the WMO, which in turn set up a committee of 13 climatologists, which included Burt, to investigate the dispute.

"There are a lot of places that do like these records," Randall S. Cerveny, a geology professor at Arizona State University, who was also on the committee, said. "It can be a source of pride for that country or a source of contention for other countries. Politics unfortunately is going to play a role sometime in the determining of these records."

After a yearlong investigation, hampered by the Libyan revolution, the committee determined the record was incorrect, citing questionable instruments, an inexperienced observer who made the reading and the fact that the reading was abnormal for that region and other temperatures reported in Libya that day.

"The WMO assessment is that the highest recorded surface temperature of 56.7 degrees C [134 degrees Fahrenheit] was measured on July 10, 1913" in Death Valley, a report from the committee said.

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