users online
Contact me


In climatology, record-breaking is of little significance climatically speaking. An all-time hot record in one place can be easily matched by an all-time cold record somewhere else. This year in the U.S. and in Australia, both hot and cold records have been broken at various times and places. They make interesting fare for the Guinness Book of Records, but little else.However, record-breaking does have one purpose for the greenhouse industry, namely that of heightening public fears about global warming. For this reason, the industry likes to see hot records being broken as often as possible, present a lot of media hype about them, and then go into quick denial and spin-making when cold records are broken, sometimes even blaming the cold record on global warming!The industry also dislikes a hot record being very old, such as the all-time hot daytime record for Australia of 53.1°C. set at Cloncurry, Queensland in 1889. Valuable research money and academic effort was spent in a futile effort to discredit that one record There is one all-time hot record that is the ultimate global prize: 58°C (136°F) set at Al Aziziya, Libya, in 1922. This was the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world and has stood for 80 years in spite of real or imagined `global warming". It is even noted in the Guinness Book of Records. But 1922 is a long time ago and the longer it stands, the less convincing are the claims about global warming in the eyes of the public.To topple this record, the industry has not bothered with the Cloncurry approach - that of seeking to discredit the record itself - as that appeared to be, and was, merely sour grapes and spin.

The low, salty pool at Badwater, just beside the main park road is probably the best known and most visited place in Death Valley. The actual lowest point (-282 feet) is located several miles from the road and is not easily accessible - in fact its position varies, but a sign in front of the pool proclaims it too to have an elevation of -282 feet, and it is here that everyone comes to take photographs. An enlarged parking area and other new facilities were constructed in fall 2003 to cope with the ever increasing visitor numbers at the site.Sea Level: There is not much else to see apart from an orientation table, identifying many of the surrounding mountains. High in the rocky cliffs above the road, another sign reads 'SEA LEVEL', giving a good indication of just how low the land is. Far above this, the overlook at Dante's Peak has imposing views over Badwater and the surrounding desert.Salt Pools: Several salt trails and shallow seasonal streams lead towards other pools out across the valley. During occasional rainy periods, a large shallow lake forms, several miles across and only a few inches deep, but most of the water soon evaporates or sinks below ground. Badwater never dries out completely, and even manages to support a unique species of fish - the Death Valley pupfish, a small bluish creature which has evolved to survive in the hot saline conditions. South of the salt pools, the seasonal Amargosa River meanders for 30 miles via several routes towards the mouth of the valley, before sinking into the sand.Heat: Apart from the high temperatures, one unusual feeling is the heaviness of the air - all movement seems more laboured and difficult than usual. The shade temperature here was 125°F when I first visited, in July 1995. It is an unforgettable experience to wander a little way out onto the salt flats, and just stand for a while in the stifling heat.

Instead, the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), has set up their own temperature instrument in Death Valley, even though there is already a long-standing instrument at Furnace Creek right in the open central part of the valley.
The new instrument is located 20 miles south of Furnace Creek at Badwater.
The photo shows the Badwater area with a large salt pan stretching into the far distance, caused by evaporation of salty water welling up from a spring just metres this side of the sign shown in the photo.

It was at Furnace Creek that the all-time hottest record in the USA was broken, 57°C. ( 134°F.) in 1913, just 2°F short of the Libyan all-time record.
The GISS historical data for Death Valley (i.e. Furnace Creek) is presented left and shows no overall warming at Death Valley since the 1950s.
The new instrument at Badwater was installed in the late 1990s, but it must be stressed that the record left is for Furnace Creek, not Badwater. Yet the public plaque on the instrument at Badwater implies otherwise.

Here is how the public plaque at Badwater misrepresents Death Valley. It's red graph line traces the same data as the one above, and it is immediately clear that the ARC graph differs from GISS in that the ARC graph shows a continuous warming whereas the GISS graph only shows warming pre-1950s with little long-term change since. They can't both be right. The plaque also said - "During the summer of 1998 - the warmest year on record - we recorded the hottest air temperature anywhere in the world of 53.06°C ±0.1°C (128°F) on 17 July 1998 at 3:15 pm local standard time."

Having mentioned 1998, that year was conveniently left off the chart. 1998 was a particularly cool year.

What exactly do those skilfully crafted words on the plaque mean anyway? Note, it refers to 1998 as the `warmest year on record', but omits to say they are referring to the world as whole, not to Death Valley itself. 1998 at Death Valley (Furnace Creek) was actually cooler than usual.
The plaque claims Death Valley recorded the hottest air temperature anywhere in the world on 17th July 1998 - implying it was an all-time world record. It was not. It was referring to 1998 only. Actually, the hottest temperature ever recorded at Death Valley was way back in 1913 on 10th July - a whopping 134°F (57°C).

The sharp dip in temperature near the end of the record was - 1998 ! - the `warmest year on record' according to the plaque. In fact, 1998 was the coolest year at Death Valley since 1945, belying the implied claims about 1998.

Note how the ARC plaque refers to `Death Valley' generally and not Badwater or Furnace Creek specifically. This merging of two quite different locations 20 miles apart is itself misleading to the public who may be unaware that `Death Valley' now has more than one weather station.
A photo of the weather instrument at Badwater is shown left, the small yellow plaque mounted low down on the structure. I visited there during my trip in April this year.

Unlike the Furnace Creek instrument which is located in the open centre of the big valley, the new instrument has been mounted next to the eastern side of the valley at Badwater. The local topography is such that the instrument sits in a curved hollow so that it is well sheltered from all but westerly winds, and fully exposed to the afternoon summer sun. In fact, the whole area around the instrument is a perfect afternoon sun trap.

On the east side of the instrument is a high west-facing cliff over 500 feet tall, a cliff which will heat up magnificently in the afternoon sun on a hot summer's day. 280 feet up on that cliff is a large sign which says `mean sea level' (Badwater is 285 feet below sea level).

September 2008

No comments:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MUCH MORE ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Packing List

Subway Maps

Currency Exchange

View Guestbook Sign Guestbook Weather Transportation Accomodation Maps