Meteorologists say a temperature of 54C (129F) recorded in Kuwait on 21 July could be the hottest ever reliably recorded on Earth. Higher temperatures have been recorded in Libya and the US, but both figures are now disputed by climate experts. The figure has yet to be confirmed by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) as the data has not yet been received from the Kuwait office.
The figure was recorded at a weather station in Mitribah, north-western Kuwait, close to the US army base Camp Buehring and south of the Iraq border. Apart from the US military, the only other locals in the area are Bedouin shepherds and camel herders and the weather station itself is believed to be unmanned.
"It's very unlikely that the site has a human observer," a spokesman for the UK's Meteorological Office told The Guardian. "Information from the station should be relayed directly to the main office. But it is a proper WMO station. There was an issue with the sensors in 2010, but that seems to have been fixed."
The record-breaking temperatures come amid a heatwave across much of Kuwait, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. In Baghdad, government offices were closed and a national holiday declared. Some locals swam in the Tigris to cool off. However, the heat caused yet more misery for the inhabitants of refugee camps in the region, faced with extreme heat and a lack of drinking water.
The highest temperature ever recorded on earth in the Guinness Book of Records was 58C at El Azizia, Libya, but the WMO later disqualified the record as it was made by an untrained observer. The 56.7C figure at Death Valley is also disputed, meaning Kuwait's figure may be the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.
Climate change experts predict the Earth will experience increasing temperatures, and that the Middle East might be rendered uninhabitable by 2100. The human body can survive temperatures of around 76C for short periods, depending on the levels of humidity.