Geneva - Libya has been stripped of its title as the hottest place on earth and ceded the all-time temperature record to Death Valley in California, which has simmered in second place for 90 years.
After reassessing old records, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) ruled on Thursday that the 56.6°C recorded in the summer of 1913 at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, California, should stand as the record.
Libya's claim to a temperature of 58°C, supposedly recorded at an Italian army base in El Azizia on 13 September 1922, now appears overcooked.
"We found systematic errors in the 1922 reading," Randy Cerveny, an Arizona State University professor who is responsible for keeping worldwide weather records at the WMO, said in a statement.
An investigation by an international team of specialists found five major areas of doubt about the Libyan claim and concluded that an untrained observer, who was consistently entering the readings in the wrong column of the log, had probably overstated the temperature.
The original readings were taken with a "Six-Bellini thermometer", which was already obsolete at the time and had a pointer that could easily be misread, introducing an error of as much as 6°C.
The 1922 measurements also seemed to be out of whack with other values recorded nearby and in other years, raising suspicions and encouraging the climate specialists to investigate.
"In the heart of every meteorologist and climatologist beats the soul of a detective," said Cerveny.