An Iraqi man cools off the summer heat by using an open air shower in Baghdad. Photo / AP
The temperature in Mitribah, Kuwait, surged on Friday to a
blistering 54 degrees Celcius (129.2 F). And on Saturday in Basra, Iraq,
the mercury soared to 53.9 C (129.0 F).
If confirmed, these
incredible measurements would represent the two hottest temperatures
ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere, according to Weather
Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters and weather historian Christopher
It’s also possible that Mitribah’s 129.2-degree reading
matches the hottest ever reliably measured anywhere in the world. Both
Mitribah and Basra’s readings are likely the highest ever recorded
outside of Death Valley, California.
Death Valley currently holds
the record for the world’s hottest temperature of 56.7 C (134.1 F), set
July 10, 1913. But Weather Underground’s Burt does not believe it is a
“[T]he record has been scrutinised perhaps more than any
other in the United States,” Burt wrote. “I don’t have much more to add
to the debate aside from my belief it is most likely not a valid reading
when one looks at all the evidence.”
If you discard the Death
Valley record from 1913, the reading from Mitribah would tie the world’s
highest known temperature, also observed in Death Valley on June 30,
2013, and in Tirat Tsvi, Israel, on June 22, 1942. But Masters says the
Israeli measurement is controversial.
Basra, the city of 1.5
million about 120km northwest of the Gulf, has registered historic heat
on two straight days. On Friday, it hit 53.6 C, the highest temperature
ever recorded in Iraq, which it then surpassed on Saturday, rising to
While the Middle East’s highest temperatures have
occurred in arid, land-locked locations, locations along the much more
sultry Gulf and Gulf of Oman have faced the most oppressive combination
of heat and humidity. Air temperatures of about 38 C combined with
astronomical humidity levels have pushed heat index values, which
reflect how hot the air feels, literally off the charts.
In Fujairah, on the east coast of the United
Arab Emirates, the dew point – a measure of humidity – reached 32 C on
Friday. The dew point, combined with the air temperature of 36 C,
computes to a heat index of over 60 C.
But this combination of
temperature and humidity is so extreme that it’s beyond levels the heat
index is designed to measure. The index, developed by R.G. Steadman in
1979, is intended to compute values up to only about 57.7 C.
Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, on Friday, the air temperature soared to 41 C,
which, combined with a dew point of 30 C, would produce a heat index
over 60 C, also over the limit. These conditions were only slightly less
extreme than on July 31 last year, when Bandar Mahshahr posted an air
temperature of 46 C and dew point of 32 C, which resulted in an
over-the-limit heat index of 74 C. Bandar Mahshahr sits adjacent to the
Gulf in southwest Iran.
In the much more arid Basra, the dew
point was only in the 30s while the relative humidity was a bone-dry 4
per cent. These conditions produce a heat index lower than the actual
air temperature, about 46 C. That is, the ultra-dry air made it feel not
The torrid conditions observed in the Middle East over
the last two northern summers may be a harbinger of even more extreme
heat in the future. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in October cautioned that by the end of the century, due to climate change, temperatures may become too hot for human survival.
In March, the National Academy of Sciences
published a report that stated worsening heat waves are among the
weather events that can be most easily connected to human-caused climate
All record temperatures noted are preliminary and await validation from the World Meteorological Organisation.