Many are curious about the hottest temperature ever recorded, but there is misleading information out there with regard to this statistic. Until September 2012, the record for the world’s hottest temperature was held by Al Aziziyah, Libya that was reported to have reached a high of 136.4 °F (58 °C) on September 13 of 1922. However, the World Meteorological Organization has since determined that this temperature was overestimated by about 12.6 °F (ca. -11 °C).
But what caused such a major miscalculation? The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) concluded that there were a few factors at play: faulty equipment was used, the individual that read the thermometer that day was inexperienced, and the observation site was poorly selected and did not accurately represent its surrounding area.
The Highest Temperatures by Continent
In reality, North America holds the record high temperature. Below, read about the highest numbers ever reached on a thermometer in each of the world’s seven continents.
Two locations have reached extreme—and very close—record temperatures in Asia just since 2016. Mitribah, Kuwait saw a high of 129 °F (ca. 54 °C) in July 2016 and Turbat, Pakistan reached 128.7 °F (ca. 54 °C) in May 2017. These are the highest temperatures reached most recently anywhere in the world as of 2019.
On the continent of Asia’s far western edge, near the junction of Africa, Tirat Zvi, Israel was reported to have reached a temperature of 129.2 °F (54.0 °C) on June 21, 1942. This record is still under evaluation by the WMO as it was not officially recorded at the time.
While equatorial Africa is commonly believed to be the hottest place on earth, according to world record temperatures, it is not. The highest temperature ever recorded in Africa was 131.0 °F (55.0 °C) in Kebili, Tunisia, reached in July 1931. This small town in North Africa is located along the northern edge of the Sahara Desert.
Though impressively hot, this record temperature is not quite the highest in the world and the continent has not come close to topping it since 1931.
The world record for the highest temperature ever officially recorded is 134.0 °F (ca. 57 °C). Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, California holds this crown and achieved this global high on July 10, 1913. The global record temperature is, of course, also the record high for the continent of North America. Due to its geography and location, Death Valley is both the lowest and arguably also the hottest place on earth.
On December 11, 1905, the highest temperature in South American history clocked in at 120 °F (ca. 49 °C) in Rivadavia, Argentina. Rivadavia is located in northern Argentina, just south of the Paraguayan border in the Gran Chaco and east of the Andes. This coastal province sees a wide range of temperatures due to its position along the sea.
Unsurprisingly, the lowest high-temperature extreme for all continents is held by frigid Antarctica. The highest temperature ever met by this southernmost continent was 63.5 °F (17.5 °C), met at the Esperanza research station on March 24, 2015. This incredibly high temperature is quite unusual for the continent that houses the South Pole. Researchers believe that Antarctica has probably reached even higher temperatures but that these have not been properly or scientifically captured.
Athens, the capital of Greece, holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. The high temperature of 118.4 °F (48.0°C) was reached on July 10, 1977 in Athens as well as in the town of Elefsina, which is situated just Northwest of Athens. Athens is located on the coast of the Aegean Sea but the sea did not keep the greater Athens area cool on that scorching day.
Higher temperatures tend to be reached on larger stretches of land as opposed to small islands. Islands are always more temperate than continents because the ocean mitigates temperature extremes. For this reason, with regard to the region of Oceania, it makes sense that the record high temperature was reached in Australia and not in one of many islands in the region such as Polynesia.
The highest temperature recorded in Australia was in the Stuart Range of Oodnadatta, South Australia, nearly in the centre of the country. The high temperature of 123.0°F (ca. 51 degree Celsius) was reached on January 2, 1960.