Is Death Valley hotter than Texas?

This is an interesting question that many people may wonder about. At first glance, it seems obvious that Death Valley, located in the Mojave Desert in California, would be hotter than the state of Texas. However, the answer is more complex than it appears.

Quick Facts About Death Valley and Texas Temperatures

Here are some quick facts to provide context on the average temperatures in Death Valley and Texas:

  • The highest air temperature ever recorded on Earth was 134°F in Death Valley on July 10, 1913.
  • The average high temperature in Death Valley during the hottest month of the year (July) is 115°F.
  • The average high temperature in Dallas, Texas during the hottest month of the year (August) is 97°F.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Texas was 120°F in Seymour on August 12, 1936.

Based on these statistics alone, it would appear that Death Valley does indeed experience higher temperatures than the state of Texas. However, there are some important factors that make this comparison more complex.

Geography and Climate of Death Valley vs Texas

Death Valley and Texas have very different geographic and climatic conditions that impact their temperatures:

  • Death Valley is located in the Mojave Desert and has a very dry climate.
  • Texas spans multiple climate zones including semi-arid steppe in the western part of the state and humid subtropical in eastern Texas.
  • Death Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges that trap hot air in the valley, leading to extremely high temperatures.
  • Texas has more open plains and air circulation patterns that prevent extreme heat buildup.
  • The lowest point in Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level, while Texas has variable topography and elevation.

These geographic and climate differences make direct temperature comparisons between Death Valley and Texas more difficult. The hot, dry desert conditions in Death Valley promote the extreme heat that defines this location. The more variable climate and geography of Texas does not lead to the same level of intense, sustained heat.

Record Hot Temperatures in Texas vs Death Valley

Despite the more moderate climate of Texas compared to Death Valley, Texas has still recorded exceptionally hot temperatures over the years:

  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Texas was 120°F in Seymour on August 12, 1936.
  • There have been several other Texas cities that have recorded temperatures of 118°F and above over the past century.
  • In 2011, Texas suffered through its hottest summer on record with an average temperature of 86.8°F from June through August.
  • During the infamous Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, north Texas experienced 45 days with temperatures above 100°F in the summer of 1936.

However, even Texas’ most extreme heat pales in comparison to Death Valley’s hottest temperatures:

  • Again, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest temperature recorded on Earth at 134°F in 1913.
  • Death Valley routinely exceeds 120°F during the summer months.
  • The average daily high temperature in Death Valley in July is 115°F with overnight lows only dropping to 88°F.
  • Between 1931 and 1990, Death Valley averaged 134 days per year with a temperature of 100°F or above.

So while Texas has experienced some extremely hot temperatures over 120°F, Death Valley still exceeds Texas’ most extreme heat quite significantly.

The Role of Humidity in Heat Perception

One factor that can affect heat perception is humidity. The combination of heat and humidity can make conditions feel hotter to the human body:

  • Death Valley has very low humidity due to its dry desert conditions.
  • Eastern and southern Texas experience higher humidity levels than western Texas.
  • Coastal cities like Houston average humidity levels of 60-90% during the summer.
  • Higher humidity makes the air feel thicker and hotter.
  • The heat index, which measures the perceived temperature with humidity, is often over 100°F in Texas during the summer.

So the higher humidity in parts of Texas can make the heat feel more oppressive compared to the dry heat of Death Valley. However, the actual air temperature is still significantly higher in Death Valley on average.

Daily and Yearly Temperature Fluctuations

Another factor to consider is fluctuations in temperature over the course of a day or throughout the year:

  • Death Valley exhibits more extremes on a daily and annual basis. Daytime highs are very hot but nighttime lows can be 30-40 degrees cooler.
  • Texas experiences hot summers but has more moderate winters. The difference between summer and winter averages is only 40 degrees in south Texas.
  • Coastal areas of Texas have smaller fluctuations due to the moderating influence of the ocean.
  • Inland areas of Texas like Dallas have larger seasonal shifts in temperature.

So while Death Valley has a greater range between daily highs and lows, Texas experiences more variation between summer heat and winter mildness.

Historical Temperature Trends

Looking at historical weather data shows rising temperature trends, especially in Texas:

  • Between 1901-2000, average temperatures in Texas increased by 1.5°F.
  • Since the year 2000, Texas has experienced several record hot years and summers.
  • 2011 was Texas’ warmest summer on record, exceeding the previous hottest summer in 1936 during the Dust Bowl.
  • Historical weather data shows Death Valley temperatures have remained more stable over the past century.

This data indicates Texas is experiencing greater temperature impacts from climate change compared to Death Valley which maintains more consistent extreme heat.

Typical Summer Temperature Ranges

To directly compare summer heat levels, examining typical June-August temperature ranges reveals:

Location Average High (°F) Average Low (°F)
Death Valley, CA 115 88
Dallas, TX 96 77
Houston, TX 94 77
El Paso, TX 96 74

This table highlights that even Texas cities with the hottest summer temperatures still average around 20 degrees cooler than the daily highs in Death Valley.

Severity of Heat Waves

The intensity and duration of heat waves also demonstrates how truly extreme Death Valley temperatures can be:

  • Death Valley endured one of the most severe heat waves ever recorded from July 1 to July 14, 1913.
  • During this two week period, Death Valley reached at least 120°F on ten days.
  • The average high temperature over these 14 days was 116.5°F with an average low of 92.3°F.
  • Texas heat waves typically last a few days to a week with highs of 100-110°F.
  • Texas has not experienced any heat waves close to the duration or severity of Death Valley in 1913.

The longer duration and higher temperature extremes experienced in Death Valley are unmatched by heat waves in Texas.

Frequency of 100°F Days

The number of days per year where temperatures exceed 100°F also underscores the extreme nature of Death Valley:

  • On average, Death Valley exceeds 100°F for 134 days per year.
  • No location in Texas averages more than 100 days per year above 100°F.
  • The Texas city with the most 100°F days is Wichita Falls in northern Texas, averaging 79 days.
  • Houston averages just 26 days annually of temperatures above 100°F.

Death Valley consistently exceeds 100°F for over 4 months each year. No part of Texas comes close to that frequency of extreme heat.

Nighttime Lows

The substantial difference in overnight lows highlights an important advantage Texas has over Death Valley:

  • Death Valley only cools to an average of 88°F at night even in the hottest summer months.
  • Texas summer overnight lows average in the 70s which gives some respite from daytime heat.
  • Higher nighttime lows prevent Death Valley from completely cooling down and provide little relief from relentless heat.

So while Texas has hot summer days, cooler nights offer safer conditions for people without adequate cooling. The persistently elevated temperatures in Death Valley never provide much of a break.

Elevation Effects

Higher elevation areas in Texas also have cooler conditions than the below sea level desert of Death Valley:

  • Death Valley is one of the lowest places on Earth at 282 feet below sea level.
  • West Texas and the Panhandle rise in elevation with mountains over 8,000 feet.
  • Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet above sea level.
  • Higher elevations have lower atmospheric pressure leading to thinner air and less heat retention.

Therefore, while lower elevations in Texas are hot, mountains and plateaus provide cooler relief that you don’t find in the below-sea-level basin of Death Valley.

Potential Future Trends

Projecting into the future, climate change impacts may cause Texas to one day edge closer to Death Valley temperature extremes:

  • Climate projections show Texas could have an additional 60-70 days over 100°F by 2050 under a high emissions scenario.
  • Coastal cities like Houston may start exceeding 100°F over 40 days per year, approaching Death Valley levels.
  • Higher overnight lows and increased humidity could make Texas heat feel more oppressive.
  • Northern cities like Dallas could resemble the current Texas climate in the future.

While Texas may never consistently reach Death Valley temperature levels due to geographic factors, climate change could push Texas towards more unprecedented heatwaves.


In conclusion, while Texas can experience periods of extreme heat, Death Valley still maintains higher average temperatures and more consistently hot conditions year-round:

  • The hottest air temperature ever recorded was 134°F in Death Valley.
  • Death Valley averages 115°F highs in July versus 96-104°F for Texas cities.
  • Texas has cooler winters and larger diel/seasonal temperature ranges than Death Valley.
  • Death Valley exceeds 100°F for 134 days annually compared to 10-79 days in Texas.
  • However, climate change may begin to push Texas towards more unprecedented extreme heat scenarios in the coming decades.

So while Texas has some extremely hot weather, the data shows Death Valley ultimately exceeds Texas in terms of highest recorded temperatures, average summer heat, number of days over 100°F, and nighttime relief. The combination of desert conditions and being below sea level make Death Valley the hottest location in North America. However, the Texas summer heat should not be underestimated and is becoming more severe due to global climate change.

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