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by Walter Feller
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Death Valley

Extreme Desert

Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world. Summer daytime temperatures often exceed a blistering 120°F (49°C), and nights may fail to cool below 100°F (38°C).

The dramatic landscape in Death Valley helps generate these extremes. In the low valley bottom the desert sun heats the air. The valley's steep mountain walls trap rising hot air and recirculates it down to the basin for further heating. This cycle leads to sizzling temperatures.

Death Valley is also the driest place in North America, with an average rainfall of less than 2 inches (5 cm) a year on the valley floor. The surrounding mountains and the Sierra Nevada to the west capture moisture from passing storms before it reaches the valley, creating a "rain shadow." Only the occasional summer thunderstorm or most powerful winter storm brings rain to the valley.

"It was so hot that swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead and when I went out to read the thermometer with a wet towel on my head, it was dry before I returned."
Oscar Denton, Furnace Creek Ranch on record hot day of 134° in July 1913


Telescope Peak overlooking the Badwater saltpan



new & updated - ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - 360 photos - glossary - comments

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