The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Africa may have witnessed its all-time hottest temperature Thursday: 124 degrees in Algeria

European model analysis of high temperatures in northern Africa on July 5. It shows maximum values over Algeria around 120 degrees. (

The planet’s hottest continent probably just endured its hottest weather ever reliably measured.

An Algerian city soared to 124.3 degrees (51.3 Celsius) Thursday, adding to the onslaught of records for extreme heat set around the planet during the past 10 days.

The blistering-hot temperature reading, observed in Ouargla, is probably the highest temperature ever reliably measured both in Algeria and in all of Africa. The record was first identified by weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera.

Ouargla, with a population of nearly half a million, is located in north central Algeria, roughly midway between Morocco and Tunisia.

Its 124.3-degree temperature surpassed Africa’s previous highest reliable temperature measurement of 123.3 degrees (50.7 Celsius) set July 13, 1961, in Morocco.

Higher temperatures previously measured in Africa have either been invalidated or climate experts find them dubious:

  • The hottest temperature ever measured in Africa and on the planet was once thought to be 136.4 degrees (58 Celsius) observed in El Azizia, Libya, but that record was rejected by the World Meteorological Organization after a committee identified five concerns with its collection.
  • A temperature of 131 degrees (55 Celsius) observed in Kebili, Tunisia, on July 7, 1931. is officially considered Africa’s (and the eastern hemisphere’s) hottest measurement. But extreme weather expert Christopher Burt, who has studied the record, calls it “suspicious” because of lack of comparable temperatures in modern times and assigned it a validity score of one out of 10. Etienne Kapikian, a French meteorologist, called the record “a big joke.”
  • In his blog post on this latest Africa temperature reading, Jeff Masters includes a run-down of other questionable temperature readings from Africa logged during the colonial period.

In order for Thursday’s temperature in Ouargla to be considered official and a record for Africa, it would need to be certified by the World Meteorological Organization while the previous record from Tunisia would also have to be invalidated.

Whether or not the Ouargla record is certified, the temperature posted seems plausible as the weather pattern was conducive to the exceptionally hot conditions.

Northern Algeria was under the influence of an extraordinarily intense heat dome or zone of high pressure aloft, when the high temperature occurred. Statistically, the strength of the heat dome was 3.5 to 4 standard deviations from normal, meaning it was highly unusual.

The European model showed temperatures more than 20 degrees above normal very close to Ouargla which, for a desert climate, is an extreme anomaly.

This probable all-time heat record is one of many set over the past 10 days because of numerous intense heat domes scattered around the Northern Hemisphere.

Locations where heat records have been set include:

  • In North America: Denver; Montreal; Mount Washington, N.H., and Burlington, Vt.
  • In Europe: Glasgow, Scotland, Shannon, Ireland, Belfast, and Castlederg, Northern Island
  • In Eurasia: Tbilisi, Georgia and Yerevan, Armenia
  • In the Middle East: Quriyat, Oman, which posted the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28: 109 degrees (42.6 Celsius).

In addition, in Northern Siberia, along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, model analyses showed temperatures rose over 40 degrees above normal on July 5, above 90 degrees. Data here is scarce so records cannot be confirmed for this exceptional anomaly.

The heat wave in southeast Canada, which brought an record heat to Montreal, has been blamed for 34 deaths.

While no single heat record, in isolation, can be attributed to global warming, collectively, this large group is consistent with the kind of extreme heat we expect to see increase in a warming world.