In July 2017, social media users shared videos and images of burning trees and melting streetlights, the purported results of a record-breaking heatwave in Kuwait during which temperatures soared to 62° Celsius (143.6° Fahrenheit).
First of all, a 62° Celsius day has never been recorded. The highest temperature on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization, was 56.7°C (134°F) on 10 July 1913 in Furnace Creek, California. The highest temperature in Kuwait, 54°C, was recorded in Mitrabah in July 2016. Although the footage of trees burning is likely real, the claim that these fires were caused by 62° Celsius temperatures is unfounded.
The weather in Kuwait hovered around 50°C during July 2017:
The web site Frontnews.eu shared one of the most popular videos of this claim, showing a tree burning on the side of the road along with the report that the temperature had reached 62°C in Kuwait:
In Kuwait, the air temperature in some places reached 62 degrees Celsius in an open area where there is no shadow.
Users of social networks share videos of burning trees, bushes, and also note that because of the heat, gasoline in the car tanks exploded.
This video was actually shot in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, and captured a palm tree that was struck by lightning, as the website alweeam.com reported (translated by Google Translate and edited for clarity):
A thunderbolt struck a palm tree on the famous Sultana Street in Madinah. Following the heavy rains in the region today and some of its provinces, the fire broke out in the entire palm before the civil defense fire brigade began its work.
A video clip was documented by a citizen. The burning process started gradually with the burning palm tree, and quickly spread to the whole of the surrounding area, causing danger to the firefighters before the fire brigade put out the fire in the palm and the surrounding trees.
ضربت صاعقة رعدية الليلة نخلة واقعة في شارع سلطانة الشهير في المدينة المنورة وذلك إثر الأمطار الغزيرة التي شهدتها المنطقة اليوم وبعض المحافظات التابعة لها ، اندلعت النيران بكامل النخلة قبل مباشرة فرقة الإطفاء التابعة للدفاع المدني للمهام المناطة بها.
ورصد مقطع فيديو وثقه أحد المواطنين عملية الاحتراق الكاملة والتي بدأت تدريجيا بالنخلة المحترقة والتي سرعان ما انتشر لهيب النيران على كامل محيطها مسببة بذلك العديد من المخاطر لمرتادي الطريق قبل قيام الفرقة الخاصة بالإطفاء بعمليات الإخماد للحد من مخاطر الحريق وانتشاره في النخيل المجاور للنخلة المحترقة.
A second video purported to show a plant burning due to Kuwait's high temperatures:
Although this video was shot in Kuwait, we found no evidence to suggest that the plant burst into flame solely because of high air temperatures. Local news reports (translated by Google Translate and edited for clarity) noted the cause of the fire was unknown:
Firefighters extinguished a fire in a number of trees on the first ring road near the Martyr's Park. In the details, a report was sent to the operating room stating that a fire broke out on the first ring road. The Shuwaikh industrial fire station was called and the fire was extinguished. Firefighters are currently investigating.
أخمدت فرق الإطفاء حريقا اندلع في عدد من الأشجار على طريق الدائري الأول قرب حديقة الشهيد. وفي التفاصيل أن بلاغا ورد الى غرفة العمليات يفيد بنشوب حريق أشجار على طريق الدائري الأول، توجه على إثره مركز إطفاء الشويخ الصناعي، وتمت مكافحة الحريق وإخمادها. يعكف رجال الإطفاء حاليا على تحديد أسباب الحريق.
A photograph of a melting traffic light also appeared alongside the claim about the high temperatures:
Although this image was taken in Kuwait, it dated back to 2013 and showed a street light that reportedly melted due to a nearby car fire.
One final image was circulated as "evidence" that temperatures had reached 62°C in Kuwait:
According to the Kuwait Times, however, this image was manipulated. Meteorologist Adel Al-Saadoun, head of the Fintas Weather Observatory, explained that the temperature has never reached 62°C in Kuwait and that such reports were just "fake news":
“Do not believe in fake news,” warned meteorologist Adel Al-Saadoun, head of the Fintas Weather Observatory, as he debunked social media reports that temperatures in Kuwait reached 62 degrees. “It is fake news – not true,” Saadoun told Kuwait Times. “Kuwait has only recorded temperatures of a maximum of 52 degrees centigrade. Never in history has the temperature in Kuwait reached 62. As we speak now, the temperature is 49 degrees Celsius (at 2 pm yesterday), but people have been posting images of 54, 56 degrees – the temperature inside the car is higher, but not as per our weather monitoring system.”
Saadoun said the mercury will continue to rise in the next few days till the end of July, but by the beginning of August, the heat will start subsiding. “This has been the usual weather in Kuwait. This period is called the summer solstice. This is the period when the sun is right next to us up there, and we expect such weather in July,” he said.