Despite a name that can come off as morbid or uninviting in some cases, Death Valley remains one of the most popular destination in the western United States.
This desert is found along the eastern part of California and offers some of the highest air temperatures that can be readily recorded. The weather in Death Valley is one of the most popular aspects of the region, as its unique elevation.
From the low Badwater Basin to the high points of Mount Whitney, the location offers a height disparity of around 15,000 feet. The area has had its high-temperature levels compared to those found only in African deserts.
Death Valley offers one of the most popular national parks in California, capitalizing on the area’s interest from tourists and the mystique surrounding it. The location is about 3,000 square-miles in area, and offers some natural landscapes that are hard to find in any other part of the country or even the world.
Death Valley Weather, Geology, and History
Death Valley offers one of the purest examples of a rare terrain setup. It has a basin and range configuration, which is an alternating landscape consisting of valleys and mountain ranges running parallel to one another.
This is the result of thickening crust, upwelling, and partial gravitational collapse of some of the land over the years. It’s also near the south end of Walker Lane, a trough that runs into Oregon. Both Furnace Creek and the Amargosa River flow through the valley, but these water sources disappear into the sandy ground.
The warm climate and presence of water also leads to salt pans, and various large deposits of sand scattered over entire areas. Scientists theorize that this was due to the evaporation of inland lakes over the years of the valley’s existence. This theory is supported by the abundant dry lakebeds.
Looking at a Death Valley map today would yield stark contrasts if one had surveyed the area years ago. While it is impossible to get a picture of what the location looked like in the past, recreations from fossil records have shown the now well-known area changed heavily over the years.
The Role of the Area’s Climate
While some people believe that the hot conditions in Death Valley are only a source of discomfort and inconvenience to travelers, the warmness serves a very important purpose.
The subtropical, hot-desert climate means summers are long and oftentimes brutal. In contrast, the winters are mild and in some cases barely noticeable. When the sun beams down on the valley’s surface, it does more than many may think.
The heat is radiated upward from the ground, and the air is able to absorb some of this due to its low density. This low density is because it is below sea level. The air cycle helps provide air flow throughout the valley and mountains surrounding it, heating and then cooling as it rises before repeating the process again.
This makes Death Valley a type of ‘natural’ convection oven of sorts. It leads to hot winds, and prevents large amounts of cloud coverage from forming over the area.
A Landmark That Sets Records
Death Valley has seen soaring air temperatures over the years, with a staggering 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 Celsius) being recorded in 1913. This took place at Furnace Creek, and remains the hottest atmospheric temperature on record. This achievement has yet to be matched in Death Valley or at any other location on earth.
As for temperatures on the surface, Furnace Creek again took the honors in 1972 with a smoldering 210 degrees Fahrenheit (93.9 degrees Celsius). Not only is this the hottest surface temperature ever recorded on Earth, but it is the only one ever recorded at over 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
In 2001, the area saw temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) for 154 consecutive days. Back in 1917, the temperature stayed above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) for 52 days.
A Popular Spot for Travelers
Despite the sweltering and unbearable conditions at various parts of Death Valley, some areas are suitable for tourist visits.
Travelers from California and around the world have frequented this location, taking in sights like Dante’s View and also visiting popular spots like the Upper and Lower Noonday Camp. The areas are set up to provide people a chance to see most of the sights by car, though some areas can be explored on foot as well.
There are lodging and restaurant locations around the area, as well as campgrounds for those who prefer to stay nearby and survey the area over the course of several days. Despite the heat, Death Valley is a centerpiece of geological marvels, historical sights, and human-made amenities to accommodate visitors.