What is the highest recorded temperature in space

What is the highest recorded temperature in space

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What is the highest recorded temperature in space? I'm not asking about Planck temperature that is a fraction of a second before the Big Bang. I'm asking about the temperature that has been recorded by an instrument.

Well this infograhic puts gas heated by a supernova at about 55 million Celsius.

And that's not even the highest temperature we can just "find" out there, even if we discard supernovae and stellar cores. The gas in a cluster of galaxies (the ICM) can have temperatures on the orders of 10 million to 100 million Kelvin. Such a high temperature gas emits high energy photons such as X-rays via bremsstrahlung radiation, and these are observable (and have been observed) by X-ray telescopes.

There's this review article from 2003 that covers the basic methodologies and measurements made on ICMs, including (but decidedly not limited to) temperature.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

2020 Tied for Warmest Year on Record, NASA Analysis Shows

Lee esta historia en español aquí.

Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA.

Globally, 2020 was the hottest year on record, effectively tying 2016, the previous record. Overall, Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s. Temperatures are increasing due to human activities, specifically emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane. (Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Lori Perkins/Kathryn Mersmann)

Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, the year’s globally averaged temperature was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit (1.02 degrees Celsius) warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 2020 edged out 2016 by a very small amount, within the margin of error of the analysis, making the years effectively tied for the warmest year on record.

“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important &mdash the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”

A Warming, Changing World

Tracking global temperature trends provides a critical indicator of the impact of human activities &mdash specifically, greenhouse gas emissions &mdash on our planet. Earth's average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century.

Rising temperatures are causing phenomena such as loss of sea ice and ice sheet mass, sea level rise, longer and more intense heat waves, and shifts in plant and animal habitats. Understanding such long-term climate trends is essential for the safety and quality of human life, allowing humans to adapt to the changing environment in ways such as planting different crops, managing our water resources and preparing for extreme weather events.

Ranking the Records

A separate, independent analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that 2020 was the second-warmest year in their record, behind 2016. NOAA scientists use much of the same raw temperature data in their analysis, but have a different baseline period (1901-2000) and methodology. Unlike NASA, NOAA also does not infer temperatures in polar regions lacking observations, which accounts for much of the difference between NASA and NOAA records.

Like all scientific data, these temperature findings contain a small amount of uncertainty &mdash in this case, mainly due to changes in weather station locations and temperature measurement methods over time. The GISS temperature analysis (GISTEMP) is accurate to within 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit with a 95 percent confidence level for the most recent period.

Beyond a Global, Annual Average

While the long-term trend of warming continues, a variety of events and factors contribute to any particular year’s average temperature. Two separate events changed the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface. The Australian bush fires during the first half of the year burned 46 million acres of land, releasing smoke and other particles more than 18 miles high in the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and likely cooling the atmosphere slightly. In contrast, global shutdowns related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic reduced particulate air pollution in many areas, allowing more sunlight to reach the surface and producing a small but potentially significant warming effect. These shutdowns also appear to have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions last year, but overall CO2 concentrations continued to increase, and since warming is related to cumulative emissions, the overall amount of avoided warming will be minimal.

The largest source of year-to-year variability in global temperatures typically comes from the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a naturally occurring cycle of heat exchange between the ocean and atmosphere. While the year has ended in a negative (cool) phase of ENSO, it started in a slightly positive (warm) phase, which marginally increased the average overall temperature. The cooling influence from the negative phase is expected to have a larger influence on 2021 than 2020.

“The previous record warm year, 2016, received a significant boost from a strong El Niño. The lack of a similar assist from El Niño this year is evidence that the background climate continues to warm due to greenhouse gases,” Schmidt said.

The 2020 GISS values represent surface temperatures averaged over both the whole globe and the entire year. Local weather plays a role in regional temperature variations, so not every region on Earth experiences similar amounts of warming even in a record year. According to NOAA, parts of the continental United States experienced record high temperatures in 2020, while others did not.

In the long term, parts of the globe are also warming faster than others. Earth’s warming trends are most pronounced in the Arctic, which the GISTEMP analysis shows is warming more than three times as fast as the rest of the globe over the past 30 years, according to Schmidt. The loss of Arctic sea ice &mdash whose annual minimum area is declining by about 13 percent per decade &mdash makes the region less reflective, meaning more sunlight is absorbed by the oceans and temperatures rise further still. This phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, is driving further sea ice loss, ice sheet melt and sea level rise, more intense Arctic fire seasons, and permafrost melt.

This plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2019, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Though there are minor variations from year to year, all five temperature records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the past decade has been the warmest. (Credits: NASA GISS/Gavin Schmidt)

Land, Sea, Air and Space

NASA’s analysis incorporates surface temperature measurements from more than 26,000 weather stations and thousands of ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures. These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the conclusions if not taken into account. The result of these calculations is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.

NASA measures Earth's vital signs from land, air, and space with a fleet of satellites, as well as airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. The satellite surface temperature record from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aura satellite confirms the GISTEMP results of the past seven years being the warmest on record. Satellite measurements of air temperature, sea surface temperature, and sea levels, as well as other space-based observations, also reflect a warming, changing world. The agency develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

NASA’s full surface temperature data set &mdash and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation &mdash are available at:

GISS is a NASA laboratory managed by the Earth Sciences Division of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science missions, visit:

Media Contacts

Tylar Greene, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., 202-358-0030, [email protected]

Peter Jacobs, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., 301-286-0535, [email protected]

This article was originally prepared as NASA Release 21-005. An alternative version of this article with additional graphics has been posted by NASA Earth Observatory.

Highest recorded temperature on Earth

On 13 September 2012 the World Meteorological Organisation disqualified the record for the highest recorded temperature, exactly 90 years after it had been established at El Azizia, Libya, with a measurement of 58°Celsius. The official highest recorded temperature is now 56.7°C (134°F), which was measured on 10 July 1913 at Greenland Ranch, Death Valley, California, USA.

As a result of an investigation in 2012, the WMO concluded that the El Azizia record measurement could be inaccurate by as much as 7°C due to a combination of factors including the asphalt-like surface over which the measurement was taken, which is not a fair representation of the native desert soil.

Randy Cerveny, a member of the WMO and professor of geography at Arizona State University, commented in 2012: "This investigation demonstrates that, because of continued improvements in meteorology and climatology, climate experts can now re-analyze past weather records in much more detail than ever before."

He added: "We accept that Death Valley temperature extreme record. Obviously if any new materials on it surface, we will be prepared to open an investigation, but at this time all available evidence points to its legitimacy."

The air temperature of the aptly named Furnace Creek in Death Valley reaches a staggering average daily high of 115°F - making Death Valley the hottest place on Earth.

It gets even hotter on the ground: a measurement of 201°F was taken on July 15 1972 - just 11 degrees away from the boiling point of water.

One of the reasons Death Valley has the hottest temperature ever recorded is because it is approximately 190 ft below the sea level, and air warms as it gets lower.

In addition to this, there is less than three inches of rain in the desert valley each year.

All records listed on our website are current and up-to-date. For a full list of record titles, please use our Record Application Search. (You will need to register / login for access)

Highs and Lows of Temperature

Any assessment of global climate change requires substantial temperature records that researchers must build from the ground up. Historically, scientists assembled these from thermometer measurements made at the Earth's surface since the last century. Over the past six years, however, two scientists have constructed an 18-year atmospheric temperature record from satellite data.

"Global warming is a huge puzzle, and we've got a very important piece of the puzzle," said Roy Spencer of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the Global Hydrology and Climate Center. Spencer's puzzle piece is the new satellite record, which he compiled with the help of John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The record, which suggests that the Earth's atmosphere is more complex than previously thought, is invaluable for its precision but controversial when compared with the surface record.

Over the past century, temperature measurements made at the Earth's surface indicate warming of about 1 degree Fahrenheit, a trend that has been increasing in rate over the last two decades. For 1979 through 1996 -- the period covered by Spencer and Christy's satellite record—

the surface and atmopheric records are not in agreement. For this period of overlap, the surface record indicates warming at about 0.24 degrees F (0.14 degrees Celsius) per decade, while the satellite record shows the atmosphere cooling at about 0.07 degrees F (0.04 degrees Celsius) per decade, according to Christy.

"That decoupling between the surface and the troposphere above is a feature of the atmosphere that's very intriguing. We can't explain it yet, and certainly models haven't been able to reproduce it," said Christy. "We don't expect the temperature trends to continue to diverge," added Spencer. "We think that the amount of divergence so far is possibly real but we wouldn't expect it to go on indefinitely. At some point, it becomes physically unrealistic. We would expect them to be much closer to each other in another five or 10 years."

Although they are complementary, historical thermometer measurements and the satellite record constitute fundamentally different ways of looking at the planet's temperature, Christy said. While the thermometer data are temporally extensive, the satellite data are evenly distributed and cover remote parts of the planet not covered by thermometers.

The two temperature records were the subject of much discussion in a special session on global warming at the American Meteorological Society's February 1997 meeting. The following month, two National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientists added new dimension to the ongoing discussion by challenging the integrity of the satellite record itself.

The divergence of the surface and satellite records may not be resolved until this most recent challenge is answered. Nevertheless, in June 1996 the international entity charged by the World Meteorological Organization and the U.N. Environment Programme with assessing climate change concluded that the imprint of human activity on climate can be clearly seen. Citing trends observed in the surface record (and modeling observations), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate."

However, because the satellite record does disagree with the temperature trends seen in the surface record, the satellite data have been widely covered by the popular press and discussed in policy circles. The data are often cited by those who dispute the 1996 IPCC statement or the veracity of global temperature increases shown by the surface record.

While waiting for the two temperature records to converge, climate change scientists are deliberating another interesting feature apparently revealed by the satellite record: the atmosphere's vertical complexity. The satellite record indicates warming in the upper troposphere (a region extending from approximately five to eight miles above the Earth's surface), but a slight cooling trend in the lower troposphere and a rather large cooling trend in the lower stratosphere.

Atmospheric temperatures may owe their vertical variation, in part, Christy said, to the forces that produce them. They are driven from below by sea surface temperatures, affected from above by aerosols from volcanoes, and influenced by other factors, including the loss of atmospheric ozone. Before Christy and Spencer compiled the satellite record, the only available atmospheric temperature measurements were taken by thermometers sent aloft on weather balloons.

In 1990, Spencer and Christy developed the technique with which scientists were first able to glean accurate estimates of global atmospheric temperatures from satellite measurements. The technique derives temperatures from satellite measurements of microwave radiation emitted by molecular oxygen. The measurements have been made by Microwave Sounding Units (MSUs) flown on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites since 1979. The temperature data sets that Spencer and Christy retrieved from MSU data consist of precise global monthly temperature determinations for the troposphere and lower stratosphere.

Although the global warming puzzle obviously can't be solved with a single piece, the satellite record is "often used by others in an attempt to prove things we don't think can be proved [by the record]," said Spencer. "The record is short in the context of global warming, but it is the longest record we have from satellites. With it, we've been able to monitor changes in the climate system over very short time scales with high precision over the whole Earth, which thermometers can't do."

With its precision, the MSU data also offer distinct modeling advantages. Because models can experimentally identify what causes, or "forces" temperature changes, "a model that could reproduce a precise record like this would show us how the forcing worked on the atmosphere," said Christy.

Also, because the satellite data are precise, "they are quite valuable in defining small changes and showing us small responses to small forcings -- letting us judge how the entire globe might respond to changes in forcing," said Christy. (Such forcings include volcanic eruptions like that of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, which registers clearly in the satellite record as increased temperatures in the lower stratosphere.)

Finally, the satellite record will also assist models in understanding variability that occurs in places like the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans, where temperatures have never been well-measured, Christy said.

Scientists assessing global climate change must consider that thermometer measurements historically made over land areas like the northern continents show more variability than temperature measurements made by either thermometers or satellites over the more stable oceans, Christy said. In the future, a complement of satellite and in-situ temperature measurements will address this concern. Satellite data provide accurate measures of temperature, but only for broad vertical layers. Because scientists need to know the temperature at as many levels as possible, the atmospheric record could be enhanced by thermometer measurements made from weather balloons in existing monitoring networks, said Christy.

In coming years, the MSU record will be extended by Advanced Microwave Sounding Units (AMSUs), to be launched on both NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) PM satellite and NOAA's NOAA-K satellites. In addition to monitoring the troposphere and lower stratosphere, the AMSU instrument will measure temperatures closer to the Earth's surface with more channels, less noise, and better spatial resolution, said Spencer.

Spencer and Christy will append AMSU data to the MSU record to make the world's longest satellite temperature record even longer. "We've demonstrated the MSU system's ability to monitor the climate quite precisely," Christy said, "and we expect only better information from the next generation of satellites. Our goal is to provide the most precise data possible, so that we can understand why this climate system does what it does."

What's Up with the Atmosphere?

The record compiled by Spencer and Christy consists of precise temperature data derived from MSUs flown on different satellites. In a letter to Nature (March 13, 1997), James Hurrel and Kevin Trenberth argue that the MSU record is suspect precisely because "there is no single satellite record," and thus, "different tropospheric measures of temperature from the MSUs contain different trends and different error characteristics."

Hurrel and Trenberth, of NCAR, concluded that although the MSU data are "excellent for examining interannual variability of tropospheric temperature," the MSU record contains "spurious trends" produced by satellite measurement "noise," orbit inconsistencies, and errors introduced during transitions from one satellite to the next. After analysis of the satellite record with these concerns in mind, the NCAR scientists said that the satellite record actually shows slight warming rather than cooling trends in the atmosphere.

Spencer and Christy remain confident of the satellite record's integrity, and argue that sufficient temporal overlap of instruments occurs during satellite transitions. Moreover, the atmospheric temperatures are validated, they said, by thermometer measurements made from weather balloons called radiosondes. "A big strength of the MSU is that it's been independently validated by radiosondes. Wherever the MSU detected a radiosonde, a check of the two shows they're in substantial agreement," Christy said.

Spencer and Christy will soon respond to Hurrel and Trenberth's challenge. However, if Hurrel and Trenberth are right, the atmospheric and surface temperature record are not in disagreement after all, and those skeptical of global temperature increases shown by the surface record have lost the main ground from which they dispute "global warming."

The MSU data, which were previously archived at NASA's former DAAC at the Marshall Space Flight Center, are now distributed by NASA's Global Hydrometeorology Resource Center (GHRC) DAAC at NASA's Global Hydrology and Climate Center.

Christy, J. R., 1995. Temperature above the surface layer. Climatic Change. 31:455-474.

Hurrel, J. W., and K. E. Trenberth, 1997. Spurious trends in satellite MSU temperatures from merging different. Nature. 386:164-7.

Spencer, R. W., and J. R. Christy, 1990. Precise monitoring of global temperature trends from satellites. Science. 247:1558-62.

Spencer, R. W., and J. R. Christy, 1992. Precision and radiosonde validation of satellite gridpoint temperature anomalies, Part I: MSU Channel 2. Journal of Climate. 5:847-57.

Spencer, R. W., and J. R. Christy, 1992: Precision and radiosonde validation of satellite gridpoint temperature anomalies, Part II: A tropospheric retrieval and trends during 1979-90. Journal of Climate. 5:858-66.

Spencer, R. W., J. R. Christy, and N. C. Grody, 1996. Analysis of global atmospheric temperature monitoring with satellite microwave measurements. Climatic Change. 33:477-89.

For more information

NASA Global Hydrometeorology Resource Center Distributed Active Archive Center (GHRC DAAC)

See record-high temperatures strip Antarctica of huge amounts of ice

Watch a barren, brown desert emerge from the icy continent.

It's easy to forget that Antarctica is technically a desert, until you see it without snow.

A new pair of satellite images shared by NASA's Earth Observatory makes that stark reality clear as ice. NASA's Landsat-8 satellite snapped the two images of Eagle Island (a small island off Antarctica's northwest tip) on Feb. 4 and Feb. 13, 2020, bookending a period of record high temperatures in the southernmost continent. Between the two images, a significant amount of the island's glacial ice disappeared, revealing huge swaths of the barren brown rock underneath.

According to glaciologist Mauri Pelto, a professor of environmental science at Nichols College in Massachusetts, the island lost about 20% of its seasonal snow accumulation in just a few days.

"You see these kinds of melt events in Alaska and Greenland, but not usually in Antarctica," Pelto told NASA.

The melt coincided with not one, but two record-high temperatures recorded on Antarctica this month. On Feb. 6, a research station on the northern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula (the finger of land on the continent's northwest tip, closest to South America) recorded a new record-high temperature of 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) &mdash surpassing the previous record of 63.5 F (17.5 C), set in March 2015.

Days later, on Feb. 9, researchers on the nearby Seymour Island saw their thermometers hit 69.35 F (20.75 C), setting another all-time high for the continent. (For comparison, that's about the same temperature reported in Los Angeles, on the same day. Balmy!)

As the new images show, those high temperatures caused significant melting on nearby glaciers. According to Pelto, Eagle Island lost nearly 1 square mile (1.5 square kilometers) of snowpack to the heat, creating several large ponds of bright blue meltwater at the island's center.

While every season has its highs, this summer has been especially warm for Antarctica, Pelto said. The continent has already seen two heatwaves this season &mdash one in November 2019 and one in January 2020 &mdash reminding us that significant melt events like these are becoming more common as global warming continues unchecked.

With impressive cutaway illustrations that show how things function, and mindblowing photography of the world&rsquos most inspiring spectacles, How It Works represents the pinnacle of engaging, factual fun for a mainstream audience keen to keep up with the latest tech and the most impressive phenomena on the planet and beyond. Written and presented in a style that makes even the most complex subjects interesting and easy to understand, How It Works is enjoyed by readers of all ages.
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The actual information presented in the article wasn't nearly as sinister as the title of the article. But I suppose no one would click on the appropriately named article of, "Snow falls, later melts".

Sure it is an anomaly, just a tiny island setting new records of heat for that latitude. Ignore it, just like the rest of the world, a warm season or two is nothing to worry about.
Or four or five seasons.
Or forty or fifty seasons.
Really, ignore the data, pretend learning is fiction.
The warmer summers happening for the last fifty years are just coincidence that fear mongers are adding more data points to. All the data indicates to a problem with a warming planet, therefore, it must be a hoax. If it was real there would be conflicting evidence. Since all the evidence agrees without any counter explanations it must be a lie, nature would never be so obvious.
Myself and my adult children all live away from large population centers and closer to the rural farming areas. Famine and disease will be far more devastating where large volumes of hungry people will be dying when the infrastructure collapses. Educated folks are standing round eyed in disbelief at the response to the crisis.

Hate to keep beating the same drum, but the tipping point is long ago in our past and the longer we pretend the closer to random any single survival story will be.

Sure it is an anomaly, just a tiny island setting new records of heat for that latitude. Ignore it, just like the rest of the world, a warm season or two is nothing to worry about.
Or four or five seasons.
Or forty or fifty seasons.
Really, ignore the data, pretend learning is fiction.
The warmer summers happening for the last fifty years are just coincidence that fear mongers are adding more data points to. All the data indicates to a problem with a warming planet, therefore, it must be a hoax. If it was real there would be conflicting evidence. Since all the evidence agrees without any counter explanations it must be a lie, nature would never be so obvious.
Myself and my adult children all live away from large population centers and closer to the rural farming areas. Famine and disease will be far more devastating where large volumes of hungry people will be dying when the infrastructure collapses. Educated folks are standing round eyed in disbelief at the response to the crisis.

Hate to keep beating the same drum, but the tipping point is long ago in our past and the longer we pretend the closer to random any single survival story will be.

Sure it is an anomaly, just a tiny island setting new records of heat for that latitude. Ignore it, just like the rest of the world, a warm season or two is nothing to worry about.
Or four or five seasons.
Or forty or fifty seasons.
Really, ignore the data, pretend learning is fiction.
The warmer summers happening for the last fifty years are just coincidence that fear mongers are adding more data points to. All the data indicates to a problem with a warming planet, therefore, it must be a hoax. If it was real there would be conflicting evidence. Since all the evidence agrees without any counter explanations it must be a lie, nature would never be so obvious.
Myself and my adult children all live away from large population centers and closer to the rural farming areas. Famine and disease will be far more devastating where large volumes of hungry people will be dying when the infrastructure collapses. Educated folks are standing round eyed in disbelief at the response to the crisis.

Hate to keep beating the same drum, but the tipping point is long ago in our past and the longer we pretend the closer to random any single survival story will be.

Death Valley Just Recorded the Hottest Temperature on Earth

Scientists still have to validate the reading of 130 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, the equivalent of 54 degrees Celsius.

In the popular imagination, Death Valley in Southern California is the hottest place on earth. At 3:41 p.m. on Sunday, it lived up to that reputation when the temperature at the aptly named Furnace Creek reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the NOAA Weather Prediction center.

If that reading — the equivalent of 54 degrees Celsius — is verified by climate scientists, a process that could take months, it would be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth.

Death Valley is no stranger to heat. Sitting 282 feet below sea level in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California near the Nevada border, it is the lowest, driest and hottest location in the United States. It is sparsely populated, with just 576 residents, according to the most recent census.

Brandi Stewart, the spokeswoman for Death Valley National Park, said that the valley is so hot because of the configuration of its lower-than-sea-level basin and surrounding mountains. The superheated air gets trapped in a pocket and just circulates. “It’s like stepping into a convection oven every day in July and August,” she said.

So how does 130 degrees, which she walked out into on Sunday, feel? “It doesn’t feel that different from 125 degrees,” she said. “The feeling of that heat on my face, it can almost take your breath away.”

She added that “People say, ‘Oh, but it’s a dry heat!’ I want to do a little bit of an eye roll there,” she said. “Humidity has its downsides too, but dry heat is also not fun.”

She grew up in western Pennsylvania and her last posting with the park service was Mount Rainier National Park, one of the snowiest places on earth. “I’m ready for cooler temperatures,” she said.

The heat rises through the afternoon, generally reaching the peak from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The high on Monday was 127.

Confirming a record temperature like this is not as simple as looking at a thermometer. There are caveats.

Higher temperatures have been reported than the one recorded on Sunday, but many climate scientists have questioned the reliability of these readings.

For example, Death Valley claims the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in 1913, at 134 degrees. But a 2016 analysis by the extreme weather expert Christopher Burt found that the reading did not align with other observations made in the region, concluding that it was “not possible from a meteorological perspective.”

Setting aside that 107-year-old claim, and some other unverified readings over the years, the previous record for highest temperature was also observed in Death Valley on June 30, 2013, at 129 degrees. The same temperature was also recorded in Kuwait and Pakistan several years later.

And that is also important to understand: There may be hotter places than Death Valley, such as parts of the Sahara, but they are too remote for reliable monitoring, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Measuring temperatures reliably is tricky. The thermometers should be shielded from the sun and elevated above ground, according to standards set by the World Meteorological Organization. The Death Valley instrument, called a thermistor, was shielded and sends readings to a satellite hourly.

Record temperatures are validated by the Climate Extremes Committee, a collaboration of weather experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations, according to Daniel Berc, a meteorologist with NOAA.

If the Death Valley temperature is validated, then Dr. Swain said it should be thought of as “the hottest reliably measured temperature in recorded history on Earth,” at least for now.

As the greenhouse gases that humans generate continue heating the planet, more records are expected, and not just in Death Valley.

“I don’t think any of this is really surprising,” said Jeremy Pal, an environmental engineering professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “As climate continues to warm, we’d expect more of these events and more of these record-breaking temperatures.”

The broiling temperatures in Death Valley are part of “a laundry list of atmospheric phenomena that have unfolded in very unusual or extreme ways,” Dr. Swain said, adding that they will only get worse in the coming decades.

California is experiencing a record-breaking heat wave, with unusual humidity, which has included a rare set of violent lightning storms that have, in turn, sparked wildfires.

The possible record in Death Valley, he said, “is part of that,” and today’s forecasts suggested the temperature could go even higher, to 133 degrees.

“The Earth is getting warmer, and Death Valley is already a hot place,” said Dr. Swain, noting that he visited the depopulated desert area when the temperature was about 115 degrees.

As the planet continues to warm, he said, a temperature of 130 degrees in a remote place is “a number we may eventually see in places that people actually live.”

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Georgia and a former president of the American Meteorological Society, said, “People notice the changes in extremes because they affect everything from our health to the productivity of the very food that we eat.”

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Imagine the Universe! Dictionary

Please allow the whole page to load before you start searching for an entry. Otherwise, errors will occur.

(Note - Greek letters are written out by name - alpha, beta etc.)

An enormously bright object at the edge of our universe which emits massive amounts of energy. In an optical telescope, they appear point-like, similar to stars, from which they derive their name (quasar = quasi-stellar). Current theories hold that quasars are one type of AGN.

quasi-stellar source (QSS)
Sometimes also called quasi-stellar object (QSO) A stellar-appearing object of very large redshift that is a strong source of radio waves presumed to be extragalactic and highly luminous.

radial velocity
The speed at which an object is moving away or toward an observer. By observing spectral lines, astronomers can determine how fast objects are moving away from or toward us however, these spectral lines cannot be used to measure how fast the objects are moving across the sky.

radian rad
The supplementary SI unit of angular measure, defined as the central angle of a circle whose subtended arc is equal to the radius of the circle. One radian is approximately 57 o .

Energy emitted in the form of waves (light) or particles (photons).

radiation belt
Regions of charged particles in a magnetosphere.

Electromagnetic radiation which has the lowest frequency, the longest wavelength, and is produced by charged particles moving back and forth the atmosphere of the Earth is transparent to radio waves with wavelengths from a few millimeters to about twenty meters.

Rayleigh criterion resolving power
A criterion for how finely a set of optics may be able to distinguish the location of objects which are near each other. It begins with the assumption that the central ring of one image should fall on the first dark ring of another image for an objective lens with diameter d and employing light with a wavelength lambda (usually taken to be 560 nm), the resolving power is approximately given by

Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities
Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities occur when a heavy (more dense) fluid is pushed against a light fluid -- like trying to balance water on top of air by filling a glass 1/2 full and carefully turning it over. Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities are important in many astronomical objects, because the two fluids trade places by sticking "fingers" into each other. These "fingers" can drag the magnetic field lines along with them, thus both enhancing and aligning the magnetic field. This result is evident in the example of a supernova remnant in the diagram below, from Chevalier (1977):

red giant
A star that has low surface temperature and a diameter that is large relative to the Sun.

An apparent shift toward longer wavelengths of spectral lines in the radiation emitted by an object caused by the emitting object moving away from the observer. See also Doppler effect.

reflection law
For a wavefront intersecting a reflecting surface, the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection, in the same plane defined by the ray of incidence and the normal.

relativity principle
The principle, employed by Einstein's relativity theories, that the laws of physics are the same, at least locally, in all coordinate frames. This principle, along with the principle of the constancy of the speed of light, constitutes the founding principles of special relativity.

relativity, theory of
Theories of motion developed by Albert Einstein, for which he is justifiably famous. Relativity More accurately describes the motions of bodies in strong gravitational fields or at near the speed of light than Newtonian mechanics. All experiments done to date agree with relativity's predictions to a high degree of accuracy. (Curiously, Einstein received the Nobel prize in 1921 not for Relativity but rather for his 1905 work on the photoelectric effect.)

resolution (spatial)
In astronomy, the ability of a telescope to differentiate between two objects in the sky which are separated by a small angular distance. The closer two objects can be while still allowing the telescope to see them as two distinct objects, the higher the resolution of the telescope.

resolution (spectral or frequency)
Similar to spatial resolution except that it applies to frequency, spectral resolution is the ability of the telescope to differentiate two light signals which differ in frequency by a small amount. The closer the two signals are in frequency while still allowing the telescope to separate them as two distinct components, the higher the spectral resolution of the telescope.

A relationship in which the orbital period of one body is related to that of another by a simple integer fraction, such as 1/2, 2/3, 3/5.

The rotation or orbital motion of an object in a clockwise direction when viewed from the north pole of the ecliptic moving in the opposite sense from the great majority of solar system bodies.

The movement of one celestial body which is in orbit around another. It is often measured as the "orbital period."

Right Ascension
A coordinate which, along with declination, may be used to locate any position in the sky. Right ascension is analogous to longitude for locating positions on the Earth.

Ritter, Johann Wilhelm (1776 - 1810)
Ritter is credited with discovering and investigating the ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Roche limit
The smallest distance from a planet or other body at which purely gravitational forces can hold together a satellite or secondary body of the same mean density as the primary. At less than this distance the tidal forces of the larger object would break up the smaller object.

Roche lobe
In a binary star system, the volume around a star within which matter is gravitationally bound to that star. That is, if you were to release a particle within the Roche lobe, it would fall back onto the surface of that star. The point at which the Roche lobes of the two stars touch is called the inner Lagrangian or L1 point. If a star in a close binary system evolves to the point at which it `fills' its Roche lobe, material from this star will overflow onto the companion star (via the L1 point) and into the environment around the binary system.

Röntgen, Wilhelm Conrad (1845 - 1923)
A German scientist who fortuitously discovered X-rays in 1895.

Röntgen Satellite

The spin of a celestial body on its own axis. In high energy astronomy, this is often measured as the "spin period."

The second Small Astronomy Satellite: a NASA satellite launched November 1972 with a mission dedicated to gamma-ray astronomy.

The third Small Astronomy Satellite: a NASA satellite launched May 1975 to determine the location of bright X-ray sources and search for X-ray novae and other transient phenomena.

A body that revolves around a larger body. A satellite can be natural or human-made. For example, the moon is a natural satellite of the Earth, and the International Space Station is a human-made satellite of Earth.

Schwarzschild black hole
A black hole described by solutions to Einstein's equations of general relativity worked out by Karl Schwarzschild in 1916. The solutions assume the black hole is not rotating, and that the size of its event horizon is determined solely by its mass.

Schwarzschild radius
The radius r of the event horizon for a Schwarzschild black hole.

scientific notation
A compact format for writing very large or very small numbers, most often used in scientific fields. The notation separates a number into two parts: a decimal fraction, usually between 1 and 10, and a power of ten. Thus 1.23 x 10 4 means 1.23 times 10 to the fourth power or 12,300 5.67 x 10 -8 means 5.67 divided by 10 to the eighth power or 0.0000000567.

second s
The fundamental SI unit of time, defined as the period of time equal to the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium-133 atom. A nanosecond is equal to one-billionth (10 -9 ) of a second.

semimajor axis
The semimajor axis of an ellipse (e.g. a planetary orbit) is half the length of the major axis, which is the line segment passing through the foci of the ellipse with endpoints on the ellipse itself. The semimajor axis of a planetary orbit is also the average distance from the planet to its primary. The periapsis and apoapsis distances can be calculated from the semimajor axis and the eccentricity by

A measure of how bright objects need to be in order for that telescope to detect these objects. A highly sensitive telescope can detect dim objects, while a telescope with low sensitivity can detect only bright ones.

Seyfert galaxy
A spiral galaxy whose nucleus shows bright emission lines one of a class of galaxies first described by C. Seyfert.

shock wave
A strong compression wave where there is a sudden change in gas velocity, density, pressure and temperature.

In astronomy, a term often used to refer to the center of a black hole, where the curvature of spacetime is maximal. At the singularity, the gravitational tides diverge no solid object can even theoretically survive hitting the singularity. Mathematically, a singularity is a condition when equations do not give a valid value, and can sometimes be avoided by using a different coordinate system.

soft x-ray
Low energy x-rays, often from about 0.1 keV to 10 keV. The dividing line between soft and hard x-rays is not well defined and can depend on the context.

solar flares
Violent eruptions of gas on the Sun's surface.

solar mass
A unit of mass equivalent to the mass of the Sun.

1 solar mass = 1 Msun = 2 x 10 33 grams

special relativity
The physical theory of space and time developed by Albert Einstein, based on the postulates that all the laws of physics are equally valid in all frames of reference moving at a uniform velocity and that the speed of light from a uniformly moving source is always the same, regardless of how fast or slow the source or its observer is moving. The theory has as consequences the relativistic mass increase of rapidly moving objects, time dilatation, and the principle of mass-energy equivalence. See also general relativity.

spectral line
Light given off at a specific frequency by an atom or molecule. Every different type of atom or molecule gives off light at its own unique set of frequencies thus, astronomers can look for gas containing a particular atom or molecule by tuning the telescope to one of the gas's characteristic frequencies. For example, carbon monoxide (CO) has a spectral line at 115 Gigahertz (or a wavelength of 2.7 mm).

The instrument connected to a telescope that separates the light signals into different frequencies, producing a spectrum.

A Dispersive Spectrometer is like a prism. It scatters light of different energies to different places. We measure the energy by noting where the X-rays go. A Non-Dispersive Spectrometer measures the energy directly.

The study of spectral lines from different atoms and molecules. Spectroscopy is an important part of studying the chemistry that goes on in stars and in interstellar clouds.

spectrum (plural: spectra)
A plot of the intensity of light at different frequencies. Or the distribution of wavelengths and frequencies.

speed of light (in vacuum)
The speed at which electromagnetic radiation propagates in a vacuum it is defined as 299 792 458 m/s (186,282 miles/second). Einstein's Theory of Relativity implies that nothing can go faster than the speed of light.

A large ball of gas that creates and emits its own radiation.

star cluster
A bunch of stars (ranging in number from a few to hundreds of thousands) which are bound to each other by their mutual gravitational attraction.

Stefan-Boltzmann constant sigma (Stefan, L. Boltzmann)
The constant of proportionality present in the Stefan-Boltzmann law. It is equal to 5.6697 x 10 -8 Watts per square meter per degree Kelvin to the fourth power (see scientific notation).

Stefan-Boltzmann law (Stefan, L. Boltzmann)
The radiated power P (rate of emission of electromagnetic energy) of a hot body is proportional to the radiating surface area, A, and the fourth power of the thermodynamic temperature, T. The constant of proportionality is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant.

stellar classification
Stars are given a designation consisting of a letter and a number according to the nature of their spectral lines which corresponds roughly to surface temperature. The classes are: O, B, A, F, G, K, and M O stars are the hottest M the coolest. The numbers are simply subdivisions of the major classes. The classes are oddly sequenced because they were assigned long ago before we understood their relationship to temperature. O and B stars are rare but very bright M stars are numerous but dim. The Sun is designated G2.

stellar wind
The ejection of gas off the surface of a star. Many different types of stars, including our Sun, have stellar winds however, a star's wind is strongest near the end of its life when it has consumed most of its fuel.

steradian sr
The supplementary SI unit of solid angle defined as the solid central angle of a sphere that encloses a surface on the sphere equal to the square of the sphere's radius.

supernova (plural: supernovae)
(a)The death explosion of a massive star, resulting in a sharp increase in brightness followed by a gradual fading. At peak light output, these type of supernova explosions (called Type II supernovae) can outshine a galaxy. The outer layers of the exploding star are blasted out in a radioactive cloud. This expanding cloud, visible long after the initial explosion fades from view, forms a supernova remnant (SNR).
(b) The explosion of a white dwarf which has accumulated enough material from a companion star to achieve a mass equal to the Chandrasekhar limit. These types of supernovae (called Type Ia) have approximate the same intrinsic brightness, and can be used to determine distances.

Cooler (and thus darker) regions on the sun where the magnetic field loops up out of the solar surface.

A Japanese X-ray satellite observatory for which NASA provided X-ray mirrors and an X-ray Spectrometer using a calorimeter design. Suzaku (formerly known as Astro-E2) was successfully launched in July 2005.

The Spectrum X-Gamma mission.

Swift is a NASA mid-sized mission whose primary goal is to study gamma-ray bursts and address the mysteries surrounding their nature, origin, and causes. Swift launched November 20, 2004.

synchronous rotation
Said of a satellite if the period of its rotation about its axis is the same as the period of its orbit around its primary. This implies that the satellite always keeps the same hemisphere facing its primary (e.g. the Moon). It also implies that one hemisphere (the leading hemisphere) always faces in the direction of the satellite's motion while the other (trailing) one always faces backward.

synchrotron radiation
Electromagnetic radiation given off when very high energy electrons encounter magnetic fields.

Systéme Internationale d'Unités (SI)
The coherent and rationalized system of units, derived from the MKS system (which itself is derived from the metric system), in common use in physics today. The fundamental SI unit of length is the meter, of time is the second, and of mass is the kilogram.

The second Japanese X-ray mission, also known as Astro-B.

Thomson, William 1824 - 1907
Also known as Lord Kelvin, the British physicist who developed the Kelvin temperature scale and who supervised the laying of a trans-Atlantic cable.

time dilation
The increase in the time between two events as measured by an observer who is outside of the reference frame in which the events take place. The effect occurs in both special and general relativity, and is quite pronounced for speeds approaching the speed of light, and in regions of high gravity.

NASA's first Small Astronomy Satellite, also known as SAS-1. Uhuru was launched from Kenya on 12 December, 1970 The seventh anniversary of Kenya's independence. The satellite was named "Uhuru" (Swahili for "freedom") in honor of its launch date.

Electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths shorter than the violet end of visible light the atmosphere of the Earth effectively blocks the transmission of most ultraviolet light.

universal constant of gravitation G
The constant of proportionality in Newton's law of universal gravitation and which plays an analogous role in A. Einstein's general relativity. It is equal to 6.67428 x 10 -11 m 3 / kg-sec 2 , a value recommended in 2006 by the Committee on Data for Science and Technology. (Also see scientific notation.)

Everything that exists, including the Earth, planets, stars, galaxies, and all that they contain the entire cosmos.

Vela 5B
US Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy) satellite with an all-sky X-ray monitor.

The Venera satellite series
The Venera satellites were a series of probes (fly-bys and landers) sent by the Soviet Union to the planet Venus. Several Venera satellites carried high-energy astrophysics detectors.

Electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths which the human eye can see. We perceive this radiation as colors ranging from red (longer wavelengths

700 nanometers) to violet (shorter wavelengths

wave-particle duality
The principle of quantum mechanics which implies that light (and, indeed, all other subatomic particles) sometimes act like a wave, and sometimes act like a particle, depending on the experiment you are performing. For instance, low frequency electromagnetic radiation tends to act more like a wave than a particle high frequency electromagnetic radiation tends to act more like a particle than a wave.

The distance between adjacent peaks in a series of periodic waves. Also see electromagnetic spectrum.

white dwarf
A star that has exhausted most or all of its nuclear fuel and has collapsed to a very small size. Typically, a white dwarf has a radius equal to about 0.01 times that of the Sun, but it has a mass roughly equal to the Sun's. This gives a white dwarf a density about 1 million times that of water!

Wien's displacement law
For a blackbody, the product of the wavelength corresponding to the maximum radiancy and the thermodynamic temperature is a constant. As a result, as the temperature rises, the maximum of the radiant energy shifts toward the shorter wavelength (higher frequency and energy) end of the spectrum.

WIMP (weakly interacting massive particle)
Theoretical subatomic particles that do not respond to electromagnetic force or interact through strong nuclear force, but would interact only through weak nuclear force and gravity. Because of these properties, they are difficult to detect, and are therefore considered "dark" — hence, WIMPs are a possible form of dark matter.

WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe)
A NASA satellite designed to detect fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background. From its initial results published in Feb 2003, astronomers pinpointed the age of the universe, its geometry, and when the first stars appeared.

The World Wide Web -- a loose linkage of Internet sites which provide data and other services from around the world.

The X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission, launched by the European Space Agency in 1999. Observation targets include quasars, gamma-ray bursts, galaxy clusters and comets. The telescope's field of view is 30 arcmin, in the energy range from 0.15 to 15 keV.

Electromagnetic radiation of very short wavelength and very high-energy X-rays have shorter wavelengths than ultraviolet light but longer wavelengths than gamma rays.

A software tools used by astrophysicists in conjunction with the FTOOLS software to analyze certain types of astronomical data.

X-ray Timing Explorer, also known as the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE).

The ratio of the observed change in wavelength of light emitted by a moving object to the rest wavelength of the emitted light. See Doppler Effect. This ratio is related to the velocity of the object. In general, with v = velocity of the object, c is the speed of light, lambda is the rest wavelength, and delta-lambda is the observed change in the wavelength, z is given by

z = (delta-lambda)/lambda = (sqrt(1+v/c) / sqrt(1-v/c)) - 1.

If the velocity of the object is small compared to the speed of light, then

Objects at the furthest reaches of the known universe have values of z = 5 or slightly greater.

Inside the bubble

To make sense of Voyager 2’s latest findings, it helps to know that the sun isn’t a quietly burning ball of light. Our star is a raging nuclear furnace hurtling through the galaxy at about 450,000 miles an hour as it orbits the galactic center.

The sun is also rent through with twisted, braided magnetic fields and, as a result, its surface constantly throws off a breeze of electrically charged particles called the solar wind. This gust rushes out in all directions, carrying the sun’s magnetic field with it. Eventually, the solar wind smashes into the interstellar medium, the debris from ancient stellar explosions that lurks in the spaces between stars.

Like oil and water, the solar wind and the interstellar medium don’t perfectly mix, so the solar wind forms a bubble within the interstellar medium called the heliosphere. Based on Voyager data, this bubble extends about 11 billion miles from the sun at its leading edge, surrounding the sun, all eight planets, and much of the outer objects orbiting our star. Good thing, too: The protective heliosphere shields everything inside it, including our fragile DNA, from most of the galaxy’s highest-energy radiation.

The heliosphere’s outermost edge, called the heliopause, marks the start of interstellar space. Understanding this threshold has implications for our picture of the sun’s journey through the galaxy, which in turn can tell us more about the situations of other stars scattered across the cosmos.

“We are trying to understand the nature of that boundary, where these two winds collide and mix,” Stone said during the briefing. “How do they mix, and how much spillage is there from inside to outside the bubble, and from outside the bubble to inside?”

Scientists got their first good look at the heliopause on August 25, 2012, when Voyager 1 first entered interstellar space. What they began to see left them scratching their heads. For instance, researchers now know that the interstellar magnetic field is about two to three times stronger than expected, which means, in turn, that interstellar particles exert up to ten times as much pressure on our heliosphere than previously thought.

“It is our first platform to actually experience the interstellar medium, so it is quite literally a pathfinder for us,” says heliophysicist Patrick Koehn, a program scientist at NASA headquarters.


A thermometer is an instrument that measures temperature.

Geography, Physical Geography

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was a Polish physicist who invented one of the most familiar types of thermometers, which uses mercury in glass. Fahrenheit also had a temperature scale named after him.

Degrees of Temperature
The Celsius and Fahrenheit scales use degrees to measure temperature. For instance, water boils at 100 degrees Celsius and 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Kelvin scale does not use degrees. It uses the kelvin, abbreviated K, as a unit of measurement. Temperatures in kelvins are never read as degrees kelvin or kelvin degrees. Water boils at 373 kelvins.

hypothetical coldest possible temperature where all molecular motion stops (-273.16 degrees Celsius and -459.69 degrees Fahrenheit). Also called zero Kelvin.

force pressed on an object by air or atmosphere.

person who studies space and the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere.

(12-20 billion years ago) theoretical event where a small, dense, hot body of matter exploded, creating the expanding universe.

heat energy radiated by a person or other animal. Also called normothermia or euthermia. For humans, resting body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

to reach a conclusion by mathematical or logical methods.

smallest working part of a living organism.

scale for measuring surface temperature, used by most of the world, in which the boiling point of water is 100 degrees.

to change from one thing to another.

to bring different sets of data into order, or establish a relationship or connection between them.

thermometer for measuring very low temperatures.

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.

to reach a conclusion based on clues or evidence.

tool or piece of machinery.

flow of electricity, or charged particles, through a conductor.

device for measuring temperature electronically.

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

type of grain alcohol used as biofuel.

scale for measuring surface temperature used by Belize, Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States.

weak or barely detectable.

change, or motion from one point to another.

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

at or below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

state of matter with no fixed shape that will fill any container uniformly. Gas molecules are in constant, random motion.

energy that causes a rise in temperature.

activity that produces goods and services.

part of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths longer than visible light but shorter than microwaves.

device for measuring temperature using infrared radiation.

to force something (usually a liquid) into a cavity or tissue.

scale for measuring temperature where zero Kelvin is absolute zero, the absence of all energy.

flammable liquid used as fuel.

state of matter with no fixed shape and molecules that remain loosely bound with each other.

substances that have liquid qualities, but whose molecules are arranged like a crystal. Liquid crystals are not a liquid form of a solid crystal.

unit of measurement (abbreviated m) determined by an object's resistance to change in the speed or direction of motion.

thermometer designed to display the highest temperature recorded between two settings.

process of determining length, width, mass (weight), volume, distance or some other quality or size.

having to do with the study of medicine or healing.

chemical element with the symbol Hg.

category of elements that are usually solid and shiny at room temperature.

series of standard weights and measurements used by most countries (except the United States, Liberia, and Burma) and throughout the scientific world. Also called the International System of Units or SI.

thermometer that measures temperatures in objects smaller than a micrometer.

person who studies the relationship between matter, energy, motion, and force.

device for measuring temperature that can be ingested.

to keep something from happening.

thermometer for measuring very high temperatures.

energy, emitted as waves or particles, radiating outward from a source.

electromagnetic wave with a wavelength between 1 millimeter and 30,000 meters, or a frequency between 10 kilohertz and 300,000 megahertz.

something that is left over.

to study, work, or take an interest in one area of a larger field of ideas.

metal made of the elements iron and carbon.

degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

electrical-resistance device whose resistance fluctuates with temperature.

device that measures temperature.

to pass along information or communicate.

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Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society


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In its common usage, the word heat refers to both thermal energy and its transfer from a warmer object to a cooler object. Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that studies heat transfer between systems. This field has observed the laws of thermodynamics which define how heat, within a system, flows and does work. In any system, when two objects with different temperatures are brought into contact with one another, they will eventually establish thermodynamic equilibrium. As heat moves from one object to the other, physical changes will take place: the balloon filled with gas will grow or shrink, the roadway will expand or contract, the electrical resistance in the circuit will increase or decrease, and these changes are predictable and can be measured. Engineers and scientists take these laws into account when they design projects and experiments. Use these resources to learn more about thermodynamics.