Everyone likes to win awards, but Iran’s 159-degree heat index is either tied or on the verge of breaking a world record that most countries would rather take a pass on.
Is this a sign of the solar storms science has been warning readers about lately or another instance of global warming? In fact, this is one of the highest heat indexes ever recorded — although many headlines have reported this information in a somewhat misleading way.
For example, the Washington Post reported the following on July 30.
“In the city of Bandar Mahshahr [near Basra, Iraq, Kuwait City, and Abadan, Iran] the air felt like a searing 154 degrees today, factoring in the humidity. Its actual air temperature was 109 degrees with an astonishing dew point temperature of 90 (32.2 Celsius). (If you use NOAA’s calculator, that actually computes to a heat index of 159 degrees).”
The Washington Post stated the correct information in the article, but the title where they mentioned Iran is “near” breaking a record is not necessarily true. Instead, Iran is actually tied with Saudi Arabia or in the process of breaking the current world heat index record at 159 degrees.
There is also a popular claim online that the “highest heat index ever recorded in the world was 172 degrees at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003. The actual temperature was 108 degrees.”
This claim is actually wrong — and the correct heat index world record information can be found in a CNN article published on July 22, 2011 via fact-checking, research-writing trivia nerds: Mental Floss. They state that the highest heat index record is from a book published by Christopher C. Burt and Mark Stroud called Extreme Weather.
“July 8, 2003, was a particularly punishing day in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. That day the temperature hit 108 Fahrenheit with a dew point of 95 degrees. This combination led to a heat index in the neighborhood of 155 to 160.”
Interestingly, Guinness World Records does not have information for the heat index world record — but they do have an entry for deaths from heat waves. In 2010, “freak heat waves” occurred in Russia, and Guinness states the following about the disaster the unprepared people of that area endured.
“[U]p to 56,000 people died as a result of overheating, droughts, forest fires and smog. Among the victims were thousands of people who drowned during the summer as those with heatstroke – and drunk swimmers – took to pools and rivers to cool down. Russia experienced its highest ever temperatures on 11 July 2010, when the mercury reached 112 degrees in the southern republic of Kalmykia.”
While Iran is in the running for the heat index world record as a tie or tie-breaker (should they reach a heat index beyond 160 degrees as possibly depicted in the above screenshot from Google on July 31), co-current headlines state that nearby Iraq is planning to issue an upcoming four-day holiday so citizens can avoid the effects of the extreme heat index they are sharing with next-door-neighbor, Iran.
According to an article from July 30, the Weather Channel reports, “The searing heat has led to an impromptu, mandatory four-day holiday in Iraq beginning Thursday…. Several Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, mandate midday breaks when temperatures are at their highest for low-paid migrant laborers during the summer months.”
Although Bandar-e Mahshahr, Iran may not be a place Americans instantly recognize — the city is a major export town for the nearby petroleum industry in Abadan, Iran (alleged to be one of the largest oil refineries in the world).
[Feature image via Matt Cardy/Stringer/Getty Images]