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Climate and Environment

Death Valley Could Hit A New All-Time Record High This Weekend

A red stop sign warns: "Extreme Heat Danger. Walking after 10 AM not recommended." It is surrounded by a wood walkway, sand and barren hills.
A sign at the salt flats of Badwater Basin inside Death Valley National Park.
AFP via Getty Images)
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Death Valley National Park is expecting temperatures to soar up to — gulp — 130 degrees this Saturday and Sunday.

If those predictions bear out, it'll be the worst heat the park has experienced in decades. Death Valley's all-time record high happened in 1913, when temperatures topped out at a scorching 134 degrees. [Note: questions have been raised about the validity of that record.]

A handwritten record from 1913 shows the temperature of 134 circled in read along the far left colum.
In July 2013 the highest recorded temperature on Earth was registered on this weather form used by the Dept. of Agriculture.
(Courtesy NOAA)

While visitors should be careful, park staffers are actually excited to see just how hot it can get, said park spokesperson Patrick Taylor.

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A graphical map of Death Valley shows shocking red, orange and purple areas indicating extreme heat.
Recorded temperatures in Death Valley on Friday, July 9. They're expected to be off this chart over the weekend.
(Courtesy NOAA)

"There's another part of us that celebrates the heat when it arrives." he said. "I mean, literally, we're chasing the all-time record. So that's something that our park is proud about and happy to celebrate when we get some of those records, whether they're a daily high or a monthly high or an average."

How hot is it? The snapshot here shows the highs in the area at 1 p.m. on Friday.

Taylor suggests that if you're going to visit Death Valley, you may want to consider staying in your car. If you stick to driving on the park's main corridor, State Route 190, you'll always be within a half hour's drive of a building with air conditioning.

If for some reason you insist on going for a hike, head toward the park's mountain ranges, since areas at higher elevations can be 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the rest of the park. Keep in mind that means it's still going to be around 100 degrees or higher up there. Maybe better if you take Taylor's advice and take a driving tour.

And a word of caution if you're planning to visit the iconic salt flats: Don't venture too far from your car, and go early in the morning to avoid the midday heat.

Even if you have no plans to venture into the desert, keep in mind that extreme heat is forecast for the entire region.

The high temperatures prompted the California Independent System Operator — the manager of the state's power grid — to issue a Flex Alert calling for voluntary energy conservation from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday in hopes of reducing strain on the system.

How You Can Save Energy
  • Set your air conditioning at 78 or higher. If you can turn it off and use a fan instead, even better. You can pre-cool your house to 72 in the morning hours when there is lower demand on the power system, then when you set it to 78 in the afternoon, it won’t be quite as unbearable.

  • Unplug “energy vampires” -- those appliances that are sucking power from the grid even when they are not being used, like a microwave oven, and phone chargers.

  • Close drapes and blinds to keep your home cooler inside. Turn off unneeded lights.

  • Wait until the early morning or late evening hours to run the washing machine or dishwasher, or vacuum.

  • If you have an electric car, don't charge it in those afternoon or evening hours

  • For those lucky enough to have a pool, do your part by turning off your pool pump.

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We also have some additional tips for staying cool: How To Survive And Stay Cool This Heat Wave Weekend

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