The Hottest Places on Earth

The Earth as a whole acts as a complex unit, with the goal of balancing energy and heat to all parts. If this is so, why are some places always the coldest or warmest? What conditions are needed to form extreme temperatures? Specifically, what causes some areas to experience such high temperatures?

The most energy received from the Sun on the Earth’s surface is at the equator. Places within 23 degrees of the equator (the tropics) receive the most annual energy because there is direct sunlight for the entire year. Locations of low latitude don’t experience seasons. It is always hot, every day of every year. There is a greater range of temperature from day to night than from June to January. This allows for locations to develop a climate of very warm to hot weather. Additionally, locations close to the tropics can experience extreme heat, but it is not as constant. In order to produce extreme temperatures, the right conditions need to occur at the optimal time of year, specifically towards the middle of the summer.

So what other factors are needed to produce extreme heat besides radiation? Clear skies, minimal surface vegetation, long hours of sunlight, and low wind speeds all help temperatures sky rocket. Large high pressures created by global energy cells usually provide this conditions of clear and calm. The highest temperature ever recorded at the Earth’s surface was 136 Degrees Fahrenheit, in Libya on the continent of Africa in 1922. Right on the northern edge of the Saharan Desert, Libya has a good climate for producing extreme high temperatures. Clear calm conditions, combined with direct sunlight and little humidity created these extreme conditions. For North America, the hottest recorded temperature occurred in Death Vally, California in 1913 (134 Degrees Fahrenheit). Again clear conditions during the time of year with direct sunlight came together to produce extreme heat. Death Valley’s low elevation and far distance from water sources also help make temperatures higher.

Temperatures have the ability to become extreme any place that favorable conditions occur. A low latitude and low relative humidity, with a high sun and long day, can easily come together and produce dangerous temperatures.