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Khalid I. El Fadli, Randall S. Cerveny, Christopher C. Burt, Philip Eden, David Parker, Manola Brunet, Thomas C. Peterson, Gianpaolo Mordacchini, Vinicio Pelino, Pierre Bessemoulin, José Luis Stella, Fatima Driouech, M. M Abdel Wahab, and Matthew B. Pace

On 13 September 1922, a temperature of 58°C (136.4°F) was purportedly recorded at El Azizia (approximately 40 km south-southwest of Tripoli) in what is now modern-day Libya. That temperature record of 58°C has been cited by numerous world-record sources as the highest recorded temperature for the planet. During 2010–11, a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission of Climatology (CCl) special international panel of meteorological experts conducted an in-depth investigation of this record temperature for the WMO World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes (http://wmo.asu.edu/). This committee identified five major concerns with the 1922 El Azizia temperature extreme record, specifically 1) potentially problematical instrumentation, 2) a probable new and inexperienced observer at the time of observation, 3) unrepresentative microclimate of the observation site, 4) poor correspondence of the extreme to other locations, and 5) poor comparison to subsequent temperature values recorded at the site. Based on these concerns, the WMO World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes rejected this temperature extreme of 58°C as the highest temperature officially recorded on the planet. The WMO assessment is that the highest recorded surface temperature of 56.7°C (134°F) was measured on 10 July 1913 at Greenland Ranch (Death Valley), California.

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Randall S. Cerveny, Pierre Bessemoulin, Christopher C. Burt, Mary Ann Cooper, Zhang Cunjie, Ashraf Dewan, Jonathan Finch, Ronald L. Holle, Laurence Kalkstein, Andries Kruger, Tsz-cheung Lee, Rodney Martínez, M. Mohapatra, D. R. Pattanaik, Thomas C. Peterson, Scott Sheridan, Blair Trewin, Andrew Tait, and M. M. Abdel Wahab

Abstract

A World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Climatology international panel was convened to examine and assess the available evidence associated with five weather-related mortality extremes: 1) lightning (indirect), 2) lightning (direct), 3) tropical cyclones, 4) tornadoes, and 5) hail. After recommending for acceptance of only events after 1873 (the formation of the predecessor of the WMO), the committee evaluated and accepted the following mortality extremes: 1) “highest mortality (indirect strike) associated with lightning” as the 469 people killed in a lightning-caused oil tank fire in Dronka, Egypt, on 2 November 1994; 2) “highest mortality directly associated with a single lightning flash” as the lightning flash that killed 21 people in a hut in Manica Tribal Trust Lands, Zimbabwe (at time of incident, eastern Rhodesia), on 23 December 1975; 3) “highest mortality associated with a tropical cyclone” as the Bangladesh (at time of incident, East Pakistan) cyclone of 12–13 November 1970 with an estimated death toll of 300 000 people; 4) “highest mortality associated with a tornado” as the 26 April 1989 tornado that destroyed the Manikganj district, Bangladesh, with an estimated death toll of 1300 individuals; and 5) “highest mortality associated with a hailstorm” as the storm occurring near Moradabad, India, on 30 April 1888 that killed 246 people. These mortality extremes serve to further atmospheric science by giving baseline mortality values for comparison to future weather-related catastrophes and also allow for adjudication of new meteorological information as it becomes available.

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