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