What does 125 degrees actually feel like? Death Valley visitors describe 'scary' heat

·4 min read

Death Valley, California, is a desert region synonymous with one singular condition: hot.

The record-holding location shoved the mercury in thermometers all the way up to 134 degrees Fahrenheit one day in 1913. The weather hasn't really cooled off there in the hundred-plus years since, and the thermometer approached that insufferable number again this past week when high temperatures reached 125 and 128 F on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

But it's hard to wrap your mind around how hot that actually is.

The number probably looks astounding compared to any forecast most may see for their hometown, but how comparable is it to the hottest day in your memory? Or is it more like that blast of heat when you open the oven door mid-baking?

Katie Moore cools off with a bag of ice on her head Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Death Valley National Park, Calif. Death Valley recorded a scorching 130 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius) Sunday, which if the sensors and other conditions check out, would be the hottest Earth has been in more than 89 years and the third-warmest ever measured. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Well, how about sour? That's what one visitor described the smell of the hot air.

Ultimately, it's a mind-melting number that can only be properly described by the Death Valley visitors themselves. Here's what they've had to say.

I have visited Death Valley National Park three times during the summer months and have been outside when the temperature was 120 F. As a meteorologist who has experienced quite a few thunderstorms and nor'easters, standing outside in 120-degree temperatures is one of my most memorable weather experiences.

Amy Lin told AccuWeather that her trip to Death Valley was absolutely amazing. (AccuWeather/Bill Wadell)

I think that it's absolutely amazing. The fact that it's the lowest point on the western hemisphere, I think it's definitely worth coming in the summer just for the experience. But it's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.

The heat is hot.

There's not too much you can say, besides ouch.

Being in Death Valley when it was 120 F was like standing under a giant hairdryer. Not only was it extremely hot, but it was also breezy. There was a bit of a sour taste in the air, too.

AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell reported seeing several dead birds on the roads of Death Valley, California. This one was struggling in the heat and Wadell gave it some water to drink to help it hydrate. (AccuWeather/Bill Wadell)

This is an extremely hot place for us to live and work, as well as it is for people to visit. There is something to be said for climatizing, so a person who acclimatizes to a high altitude, their body can adjust somewhat to dealing with extreme heat.

This is exceptionally hot. It's scary how hot it is. We planned this trip last October and made reservations. While we knew it would be warm because it was summer, we never expected this type of heat.

Even as a California native, Derrick Anderson said the heat of Death Valley can be hard to comprehend. (AccuWeather/Bill Wadell)

If you're not used to it, it can be somewhat of a hellish situation.

In all our employees protocol, we have numbers that dictate that if you've been on vacation away from Death Valley for more than four days, that your work-rest ratio between how much labor you can do out in the heat and how much time you have to spend resting in the air conditioning resting in between that labor is increased because of that climatizing.

Speaking to Reuters, "Up to a certain temperature, it's OK, like maybe 120 F. But once it gets above that is when it really gets hard."

A puddle of water in the Badwater Basin, lingering despite the incredible heat. (AccuWeather/Brian Lada)

It's just hard to imagine how settlers decided that this was a place where they needed to be at, like I just don't get it how you could come out here and be like, "Ah! This is opportunity!"

It's nice for about 10 seconds, then it gets old. You open the door and it's just instantly this massive wave of just thick, hot air. I got blown back for a second.

It doesn't feel like you're sweating because your sweat evaporates almost instantly. When I was visiting Death Valley on July 18, 2018, a small shower passed overhead. A few raindrops hit my windshield, but the raindrops evaporated the second they hit the pavement.

We like to hike when we go through the parks, but it's just too much heat to hike.

Definitely worth coming.

Additional reporting and interviews for this story were conducted by AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell.

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