Death Valley Imagine being stranded in a desert with no water in over 100 degree weather conditions while the sun is beating down on you all day. Perhaps the only person we may think is capable of doing this feat is Bear Grylls, the English adventurer who hosts the famous TV show “Man Vs. Wild. ” One of the hottest, intriguing, and most unique places on the planet has to be in The Death Valley National Park. This national Park lies at the Northwest end of the Mojave Desert, on the states of California and Nevada.
Death Valley is the single hottest, driest, and lowest spot not only in The United States, but also in the whole continent of North America. I was shocked to find out that people have been living in these conditions for over 1000 years already. Native American’s have lived in Death Valley and the surrounding area for centuries. The tribe is now known as the Timbisha Shoshone. At least the Timbisha Shoshone will not have to worry about purchasing a grill or a stove for their campsites, because they can cook all their food on a rock in the middle of the desert, literally!
Death Valley has set many temperature and weather records since its existence. Some being that in 2001, for 153 consecutive days, the temperature reached over 100 degrees each day. It actually was the hottest place on the entire planet up until 1922 when Libya took first place. An annual precipitation of 1. 50 inches falls upon this dangerous valley each year. Here in Chicago, our driest month on the year, which is February, receives 1. 63 inches of precipitation.
Yes, that means that our driest month of the year is still not even as low as the yearly rainfall that Death Valley receives. The fact that Death Valley beholds the lowest point in the continent is one of the main reasons why it is so hot. It reaches a treacherous -282 feet below sea level at its lowest point in the valley. Death Valley being below sea level and means it has even more air pressure causing even more heat. It is also influenced by it being very dry making it easier to get hotter as humid air takes more energy to get hotter than drier air.
The fact that it is in a part of the continent due to jet stream patterns that gets a lot of annual sunshine also makes it hot. Libya is considered to be the hottest place on Earth, after recording an astounding 134 degrees in 1922. The second hottest place on Earth is of course, Death Valley. Death Valley recorded a temperature of 134 degrees in 1913 during a very intense heat wave. For five days straight during this heat wave, temperatures in Death Valley reached over 129 degrees.
One may start to wonder, why is this sweltering valley so hot and dry all the time? The answer is quite simple actually. Winter storms moving inland from the Pacific Ocean must pass over a number of mountain ranges as they travel east. As the clouds are rising with the mountains, they cool and the moisture falls as rain or snow on the western side of the mountains. By the time the clouds reach the mountains’ east side, most of the moisture has already been precipitated, leaving a dry rain shadow.
Four major mountain ranges lie between Death Valley and the ocean, each one adding to the intensity of the rain shadow effect. In total, rainfall averages less than two inches per year. During some years, there is no rain at all. This is the reason why the valley is always so dry consistently. The depth and shape of Death Valley contributes to the extremely torching summer temperatures. The valley is a long, narrow basin 282 feet below sea level, yet has very steep mountain ranges along the walls of the valley.
The clear, dry air and rare plant life cover allow sunlight to continuously heat the desert surface. Heat radiates back from the rocks and soil and becomes trapped in the valley’s depths. Summer nights provide little relief. Often, overnight lows may only drop to 90°F. Heated air rises, yet it is trapped by the high valley walls and is cooled and recycled back down to the valley floor. Those pockets of descending air are only slightly cooler than the surrounding hot air. As they descend, they are compressed and heated even more by low elevation air pressure.
These moving masses of super-heated air blow through the valley, thus creating the extremely high temperatures. When I said earlier that the Timbisha Shoshone tribes could cook their meals on rock in the desert, I was being 100 percent truthful. The ground temperatures in Death Valley are usually somewhere around 40 percent higher than the temperature in the air. Once there was a ground temperature measured at an astounding temperature of 201 degrees. That is plenty hot enough for the Timbisha Shoshone to cook hot meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day!
Statistically speaking, Death Valley is actually the single hottest place on Earth when looking at it from an average annual temperature standpoint. Although Libya in Africa does hold the hottest temperature ever recorded, Death Valley is on average the hottest place in the world. In July, the valley has an average temperature of a scolding 116 degrees. So, remember that if your name is not Bear Grylls, and you are not a part of the Timbisha Shoshone Native American Tribe, please do not attempt to live your life in Death Valley!