135 degrees in Death Valley: 'Eyeballs were burning'

death-valley-135-degrees.jpgKevin Martin, the blogging weatherman who took his mother (and her car) to Death Valley on Sunday, said he found temperatures a few degrees higher than the official reading of 129 degrees recognized by the National Weather Service. That's because the official reading is recorded at Furnace Creek, the area of the national park with lodgings and facilities. Martin went to the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. His thermometer measured 135.5 degrees.

By the way, I'm talking about the fascination with Death Valley's heat at 6:44 p.m. tonight on KCRW.

From Guy McCarthy at Redlands-Loma Linda Patch, where Martin sometimes blogs:

The 135.5 reading that appears in the photo with this report was recorded at 2:30 p.m. Sunday June 30 at Badwater, Martin said. He described holding the recorder inside the Honda, with the sensor outside near the edge of the basin, about 100 feet away, situated 6 to 7 feet off the ground, and shaded by a piece of cardboard 2 feet by 2 feet.

"I rigged it to make sure the sensor was not in direct sunlight, or heated by the material I used to shade it," Martin said. "Plastic or metal would make it hotter."

Martin said he used the same shaded rig at Furnace Creek to compare readings with the temperature display outside the visitors center.

"I was getting the same reading as the display," Martin said. "We got 129 at the same time."

Martin says he's convinced Badwater Basin is hotter than Furnace Creek because of the elevation, winds and heat coming off the white salt flat.

"There were people walking out a quarter-mile out on the basin and they were just insane," Martin said. "I walked about 300 feet out there, but I couldn't take it more than five minutes. I started feeling very faint. It felt like I was cooking from the inside out."

If Martin's readings were recognized, the 135.5 degrees would be a new world record — the old record from 1913 is 134 degrees. But it doesn't work that way, even though the National Park Service meteorologist for Death Valley, Chris Stachelski, agrees it's usually a few degrees hotter at Badwater.

"Unofficially people have gone down there with thermometers, including myself," Stachelski said. "Badwater is generally 1 to 3 degrees warmer."

There is no official weather station at Badwater, so anyone curious about heat in what is home to the official world heat record has to settle for Furnace Creek.

There's interest among some weather observers to install a weather station at Badwater, Stachelski said. There are obstacles, though.

"There's no shelter, no ranger station, and it's a 35mile one-way drive to read an instrument there," Stachelski said. "On a daily basis, people safety is more important in Death Valley. It's federally protected land, there's no utilites.

"Until they can get legal permissions and funding fot a solar-powered, stand-alone weather station," Stachelski said, "it will stay on the wish list."

Martin posted his account at The Weather Space: Death Valley High Temperature Record Likely Broken, But Will Go Unnoticed. He said, by the way, he was was happy to get out of Death Valley. "When we got back last night it was 100 in Hesperia," he told Patch, "and it felt like heaven."

Photo: Kevin Martin

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