Death Valley sets record for hottest Sept. day — and California's heat wave isn't over

Death Valley, Calif., set a record Thursday for the highest recorded temperature for the month of September, hitting 127 degrees Fahrenheit.

The new record comes as California bakes in the latest heat wave of a punishing summer in a year when climate change has continued apace, resulting in a wide variety of extreme weather events around the globe.

“I wish it were cooler already,” Abby Wines, spokesperson for Death Valley National Park, told Reuters. “This is abnormally hot for September.”

The hottest temperatures of the current extended heat wave are not expected to peak until Monday or Tuesday, however, leaving open the possibility that Thursday’s record for a September day will be short-lived.

Temperature records in many parts of the state are forecast to fall in the coming days, but it’s the duration of extremely hot weather that bears the hallmarks of climate change rather than a single record being broken. Studies have linked increasing heat wave duration and frequency with rising global temperatures due to the greenhouse effect caused by the burning of fossil fuels by humans.

In Sacramento, the state capital, the city has never recorded 10 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures. It is now in its ninth straight day, and that record is almost certain to fall, meteorologist Tamara Berg said Friday.

A temperature gauge in Death Valley, Calif., shows a reading of 127 degrees Fahrenheit.
Death Valley, Calif., recorded a temperature of 127 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday. (Reuters video)

Public high schools in the San Fernando Valley have altered schedules due to the heat and canceled football games. On Wednesday it was 106 degrees Fahrenheit in the valley, on Thursday it reached 107 degrees Fahrenheit and on Friday it is forecast to hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit before temperatures edge back up for the remainder of the holiday weekend.

In Death Valley, tourists have flocked to the national park to experience temperatures that will become more commonplace over the coming decades thanks to climate change. Even walking relatively short distances in the extreme heat can prove hazardous to one’s health.

“The ground heats up. We’ve measured temperatures of 201 [degrees Fahrenheit] as far as ground temperatures. The ground is then radiating heat back up into the air,” Wines said.

The National Weather Service has been issuing alerts across the state warning of the dangers that exposure to the heat can have to human and animal health.

“Dry heat means that your sweat will evaporate almost instantly, to the point where you don’t even realize you’re sweating,” Wines said. “Your shirt doesn’t get soaked and so people — their body is cooling them down through sweating and may not realize how overheated they actually are and how dehydrated they’re getting.”