As anniversaries go, this one seems absurd: 100 years ago next week, a man walked outside and looked at a thermometer.
But to folks who get excited about record-breaking weather, July 10, 1913, is the Holy Grail of Hot.
That’s the day rancher and weather observer Oscar Denton recorded the highest temperature ever: 134 degrees in Death Valley, Calif., 115 miles west of Las Vegas.
If extreme weather fans want to mark the occasion at the spot where it happened, Death Valley National Park is happy to oblige.
Based on what happened last weekend , when the temperature topped out at 129, park spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman is expecting a crowd.
“We were just mobbed,” she said.
Wednesday’s festivities will start with an 11 a.m. news conference at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, a few hundred yards from the site of Denton’s world-record observation. After that, a series of weather experts, historians and park staff members will speak on what makes Death Valley so hot and what caused the all-time high a century ago and what went into declaring it the Earth’s official record temperature.
The event will culminate at just before 4 p.m., when visitors are invited to walk out to Death Valley’s official weather station and watch a park staff member take a temperature reading in a practice dating back to 1911.
“It’s a very short field trip. It’s probably 100 yards at the most,” Chipman said.
The rest of the events will take place inside the visitor center’s air-conditioned auditorium because “it’s probably going to be 115 degrees out,” she said.
The hottest day ever came during a seven-day run of terrible heat in July 1913 at what is now Furnace Creek Ranch. The temperature reached 127 degrees every day and topped 130 three times.
The official high in Death Valley hasn’t reached the 130 mark even once in the century since, though the 129 posted there Sunday marked the hottest June day ever recorded anywhere on the planet.
Chipman said the extreme event drew an extreme crowd of heat-seeking tourists and journalists from all over. “All the world was here, really,” she said.
One guy donned an all-black Darth Vader costume and went for a run during the heat of the day. He was accompanied by a man dressed as Chewbacca who didn’t do any running, which probably explains why he’s still alive.
So Wednesday could be lively.
“I think it will be an interesting crowd because I think these weather folks are an interesting crowd,” Chipman said.
Death Valley only recently won the title of hottest place on Earth, after a year-long investigation resulted in the disqualification of the previous all-time planetary high of 136 degrees recorded at El Azizia in present-day Libya in 1922.
In September, the World Meteorological Organization — sort of the Guinness Book of weather — struck down the old record after experts concluded that the observation was likely made by an inexperienced observer using unsuitable and poorly placed equipment, resulting in a reading roughly 12 degrees too high.
With 136 out of the way, that left Denton’s 134 as “the hottest temperature anyone’s ever been able to verify,” Chipman said.
Those looking for a souvenir from Wednesday’s 100th anniversary should have plenty to choose from.
The visitor center gift shop is selling commemorative “134” T-shirts, magnets and patches, while the general store at the privately operated Furnace Creek Resort has shirts, coffee mugs and shot glasses.
But that last item comes with a word of warning from the Park Service: drinking shots in Death Valley is not advised.
“Not in this weather. Heck no,” Chipman said. “Shots of Gatorade maybe.”
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.