DEATH VALLEY, Calif. - Sunday marks the anniversary of the only time measurable snow fell in the hottest place in the world.
Official records note 0.5 inches of snow fell on Death Valley in the deserts of California on Jan. 29, 1922. The records go back to 1911.
The National Weather Service said there have been half a dozen times since 1922 that snow has been observed in the park, but all accumulations have never reached above a trace. The last event reported by observation sites was Jan. 5, 1974.
Observations of snow are taken as part of collecting routine weather observations at Death Valley, the NWS said. The total amount of snow that has fallen is reported once a day at the time of observation by the observer on duty.
This observation time is the same as when temperature, liquid precipitation and evaporation readings are taken. The NWS said snow amounts listed for each day represent the observation day ending when the observation was taken.
Despite lack of Death Valley snow, it has an important historical significance
Midwestern settlers looking to find gold in California attempted a new, what they believed to be shorter route to California from Utah. Instead, they found themselves mired in the arid deserts for weeks with scant water and food.
Miles from any water source or civilization, their survival prospects were becoming grim until Mother Nature tossed them a literal lifeline: a snowstorm.
"During the night, a stray and crazy looking cloud passed over us and left its moisture on the mountain to the shape of a coat of snow several inches deep," one of the pioneers, Williams Lewis Manly, wrote in his autobiography in 1894. "When daylight came, the oxen crowded around the wagons, shivering with cold and licking up the snow to quench their thirst. We took pattern after them and melted snow to get water for ourselves."
Saved from dying of thirst, the survivors would go on to tell tales of the "death valley."
It's a stark contrast to the same place that holds the World Record for hottest temperature recorded on Earth at 134 degrees set in July 1913.
There's still some controversy over the accuracy of the record. However, there have been multiple reliable readings of 129 and 130 degrees in the years' since.
So let's agree, it's a hot place, that named from the result of a snowstorm.