In 2009 on the Australia Severe Weather website, I did a detailed thread titled “Hot Weather at Furnace Creek Death Valley - California June / July 2009”. During this period, an intense heatwave gripped the locality as well as most of the South West region of the United States. It was also a time where minimum overnight minimum temperatures of 40C were recorded being one of only two places in the world where such temperature extremes can occur.
The discussion thread can be found at:-
This article only relates to the intense heatwave that occurred at that time and describes the topography and why such intense heatwaves often occur here during June to August each year.
Since this article was prepared, there have been other intense heatwaves at this location and surrounding desert regions.
During June 2021, another intense heatwave has gripped this area and on June 17 2021, the weather station at Furnace Creek Death Valley recorded the hottest verified temperature to date for 2021. A maximum temperature of 53.2C or 127.7F was recorded here. This is just shy of the highest ever June temperature of 53.9C.
A temperature of 50.6C also occurred at Palm Springs east of Los Angeles during the same heatwave.
As described in that thread, much of the heat that occurs here relates to the topography and location. The valley sits between the Armogosa Range to the east and the Panamint Mountains to the west where peaks top 3,368 metres at Telescope Peak. The valley at Badwater Basin sits 86 metres below sea level. During the summer months, heat is trapped over long periods and little escapes during the night. The locality is also within an intense rain shadow so that the air that reaches the valley is extremely dry.
The photos attached to the post are taken in June 2007 following a trip into the valley. The photos clearly show why it becomes so hot here and why maximum temperature records are capable of being broken.
Typically, there is no vegetation available, no water and no relief from the incessant heat.
Weather stations have been placed within the valley to record the extremes of weather and 50C days are common during the summer months. The primary station is at Furnace Creek (Greenland Ranch) just to the north of Badwater Basin. On July 10 1913, it is claimed that it reached 56.7C, here (just to the north where I took the photos) which is the highest maximum temperature recorded. Although while it is accepted by the World Meteorological Organisation, it is still in doubt for a number of reasons, one of which it was recorded by an untrained observer and that the observation may be inaccurate.
A look at the National Weather Service forecasts for this region for the next seven days clearly shows that heat advisory warnings and excessive heat alerts are being issued for much of the desert south west of the USA with forecast highs of up to 118F (48C). A look at the forecast for Furnace Creek for Sunday and Monday 27 and 28 June shows that temperatures are expected to reach 123F (51C) and 124F (51C to 52C) at the Furnace Creek Visitor Centre or immediate environs.
Similar alerts are being issued for places such as Palm Springs and anywhere within the eastern deserts of California and western Arizona.
The current heatwave that is occurring is intense even for such locations and such heat will continue throughout July and August which are the typical summer months.