Short version: YES, Salton Sea is very hot!
Longer version: The Salton Sea is located in the desert of Southern California, east of San Diego and just north of the Mexico border. It is also very low. 227 feet below sea level. The only place in the United States that is lower is Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level. Because it is in the southern desert and so far below sea level, it gets hot. Very hot. Most people probably can’t get a grip on just how hot it can get at Salton Sea, and it is difficult to explain it in writing, but I’ll try.
The highest, certified and validated temperature ever recorded on the planet was 134°F recorded in Death Valley, just a hop, skip & a jump up the road from Salton Sea. There have been reports of temperatures as high as 136°F in Lybia, but this has been “de certified” as not reliable, leaving Death Valley as the “official” record holder. This should give you an idea of what ‘hot’ is.
In my days of camping at Salton Sea in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, our thermometer in our campsite at Corvina Beach recorded an in-the-shade temperature record of 123°F, and regularly registered in the 115°F to 120°F range. Granted, our dime-store thermometer was probably not very accurate, but I’m pretty sure anyone that was at Salton Sea on those days would agree it was very hot.
Official Temperatures at Salton Sea
The hottest temperatures that I could find for Salton Sea was recorded at Salton City in 1982 at 116F and 122°F in Niland back in 1950. These ‘official’ temperatures are not far from the hottest ever recorded in Death Valley, and I’m pretty sure most people would agree, it gets pretty freakin hot at Salton Sea.
I will be attempting my walk around Salton Sea in the middle of June (2015). The month of June has a historical average temperature of 103°F, with a record high temp. of 121°F. The only month that has higher averages is July with an average of 107°F and high of 122°F. Based on these historical averages, it’s going to be hot.
It’s a wet heat!
So hopefully by now I have established that it gets hot at Salton Sea and we can be confident that when I do my walk in June, it’s going to be hot. But the other factor that you may not think of (unless you’ve been to Salton Sea) is the humidity. Not only does it get hot, it gets hot and humid.
As you can see in the graph above, humidity levels during summer months at Salton Sea hovers around 90% – NINETY PERCENT humidity. Combine a temperature of 110°F-120°F with high humidity levels like this, and “hot” no longer even describes it. This is far cry from my 108°F in the Inland Empire desert areas with a humidity level closer to 10% and even Death Valley does not get a combined heat index (heat plus humidity) this high.
Why not take a refreshing dip?
One person told me that walking around Salton Sea, even in the heat of summer was not that big a deal because if I got hot, I could just take a swim and cool off. While this is partially true, and I do plan on using the water to try and keep cool, it’s not quite the same as taking a dip in your average swimming pool on a hot day.
In summertime the water temperatures of Salton Sea average from the 80’s up to 90°F. This is a far cry from jumping into a cold swimming pool. Although if the air temperature is in the range of 110°F, it does still feel nice.
But as soon as you get out of the water, because of the extreme humidity, your body does not cool down like you would expect. Instead of the breeze blowing the water off and cooling you down or making you cold, it’s more like you’re standing in a steam-bath. The water and the air just “stick” to you, making you feel more miserable than cool.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of the summertime climate at Salton Sea. Of course if you’re still not sure, please come join me and give me some encouragement next June! The forecast for Salton Sea when I do my walk in June 2015? Hot, sticky, and miserable.