Temperatures in Death Valley hit 130 degrees on Sunday — the hottest recorded temperature since 1931 if confirmed.
The heat is part of a larger wave sweeping the western US.
Death Valley is one of the hottest places on Earth, and the hottest region in the US.
Temperatures in Death Valley, California reached a scorching 130 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday afternoon — the hottest recorded in the US since 1913, according to the National Weather Service.
The heat is part of a major wave that hit California and other parts of the western US this week. Cities like Oakland saw 100-degree temperatures, and parts of Los Angeles are expected to stay at or above 100 for the next week.
Sunday's 130-degree reading in Death Valley isn't official yet, though. A committee — the US National Climate Extremes Committee often does this work — still has to confirm the temperature by examining the measure in further detail and assessing the quality of the sensor. The process could take months, but it's likely the reading will hold up to scrutiny.
"Everything I've seen so far indicates that is a legitimate observation," Randy Cerveny, head of the World Meteorological Organization's weather and climate extremes team, told The Washington Post. "I am recommending that the World Meteorological Organization preliminary accept the observation."
Death Valley is the hottest and driest region in the US, and one of the hottest places on Earth. It holds the record for the hottest month ever recorded in the world, July 2018, when its average temperature exceeded 108 degrees.
It also currently holds the record for the highest temperature ever measured on Earth, when thermometers in Death Valley's Furnace Creek hit 134 degrees in on July 10, 1913. Since then, the world's only confirmed temperature higher than 130 degrees was in Tunisia, which saw a 131-degree record on July 7, 1931.
Scientists aren't certain whether Death Valley ever really hit 134, though: Weather historian Christopher Burt questioned the reading in a 2016 analysis, concluding that it was "essentially not possible from a meteorological perspective." That's because based on data from other stations, 134 degrees would be too far from average temperatures in the region that summer.
Weather experts have also questioned the Tunisia record, since many believe the thermometers used to measure that temperature wouldn't be considered accurate today.
Beyond those two, the hottest temperature experts have reliably confirmed was 129.5 degrees in Death Valley in 2013. Other countries, including Iraq, Kuwait and Pakistan, have also recorded temperatures of 129 degrees.
Climate change increases the likelihood of extreme heat events; the 10 warmest years on record overall have all occurred since 1998, according to NOAA. Heat waves are the deadliest of all weather events, killing more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. In July 2010, for instance, a heat wave in Russia killed 56,000 people. Researchers later concluded that there was an 80% chance that wave wouldn't have happened without climate change. After a heat wave in Europe that killed 70,000 people in 2003, researchers calculated that climate change made such a heat wave four times more likely.
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