The first step in determining the hottest country in the world is to decide what qualifies a country as the hottest.
- Is it the country that recorded the single hottest temperature in the world in a given year? If so, that's Kuwait, whose city of Nuwaiseeb reached 53.2C (127.7F) on June 22, 2021.
- Is it the country that recorded the hottest temperature in modern history? That would be the United States, which hit 56.7C (134F) in Death Valley, California in 1913.
- Is it the country that has the hottest average summer temperature, never mind the winter temperatures?
- Is it the country with the hottest average year-round temperature over the past 30 years?
While all of these metrics have merit, this article will be using the last one mentioned.
Top 10 Hottest Countries in the World 1991-2020 (by average annual temperature °C/°F)
- Mali - 28.83°C / 83.89°F
- Burkina Faso - 28.71°C / 83.68°F
- Senegal - 28.65°C / 83.57°F
- Tuvalu - 28.45°C / 83.21°F
- Djibouti - 28.38°C / 83.08°F
- Mauritania - 28.34°C / 83.01°F
- Bahrain - 28.23°C / 82.81°F
- Palau - 28.04°C / 82.47°F
- Qatar - 28.02°C / 82.44°F
- Gambia - 27.97°C / 82.35°F
Mali is the hottest country in the world, with an average yearly temperature of 83.89°F (28.83°C). Located in West Africa, Mali actually shares borders with both Burkina Faso and Senegal, which follow it on the list. A large part of Mali is covered by the Sahara Desert, and most of the country receives minimal rain, making drought a frequent concern.
How hot is the hottest country on Earth?
At first glance, 28.83°C / 83.89°F seems surprisingly cool. But keep in mind these are not average summertime highs, but average overall temperatures. That means this number includes not just the summer highs, but both day and night temperatures not only in summer, but also in the spring, fall, and winter months.
For example, daytime highs in Timbuktu, Mali average between 97°F and 108°F from March through mid-October—in fact, the average daily high in January, the coolest month of the year, is still 83°F. But cooler winter nights in the 58-65°F range lower the yearly average temperature down to a seemingly innocuous, but actually brutal mid-80s (°F) average.
Where are the Earth's hottest countries?
As a rule, countries closer to the Earth's equator (zero degrees latitude) experience warmer temperatures year-round than countries farther north or south of the equator.
As one moves closer to the poles (further north in the Northern Hemisphere or south in the Southern Hemisphere), the seasonal weather variation and range of temperatures experienced over the course of a year increases, including significantly colder temperatures in the winter.
Why are temperate countries cooler?
The main reason countries near the equator experience hotter temperatures is the shape of the Earth.
Because the Earth is roughly spherical, sunlight strikes the equator at a nearly perpendicular angle, which concentrates it in a smaller area and makes it more likely to be absorbed. However, the sunlight that strikes the poles does so at an increased angle, which spreads the sunlight over a greater area and makes it more likely to ricochet off (especially in areas already covered in snow).
In addition, approaching at an increased angle means the sunlight must penetrate a thicker layer of atmosphere, increasing the odds of the sunlight getting reflected, deflected or absorbed by atmospheric particles before it reaches the surface. As a result, the closer a country is to the poles, the less solar energy it absorbs and the cooler it is overall.
A second, closely related cause of temperature variation is the tilt of the Earth's axis. In fact, the Earth's tilt—not slight variations in its distance from the sun—is the reason Earth has seasons.
From roughly May-September each year, the Earth's tilted axis points the North Pole toward the sun, enabling sunlight to strike the Northern Hemisphere at a more direct angle. More sunlight is absorbed, and the Northern Hemisphere experiences summer. Six months later, the Earth will have completed half its orbit and its North Pole will now point away from the sun. When this happens, the Northern Hemisphere absorbs less sun and moves into fall and winter. However, because the South Pole now points toward the sun, the Southern Hemisphere gets more direct sunlight and enjoys its own spring and summer.
Do changes in climate correspond to national borders?
While geographical features such as lakes and mountain ranges can definitely impact weather and climate, national borders are typically determined by politics rather than geography. Therefore, national borders tend to have no effect upon climate, weather, and temperatures. Climates and temperatures vary greatly between countries and even within countries. This is especially true in large countries, such as the United States or Russia. The U.S. states have a huge variety of climates depending on their latitude and proximity to oceans, mountains, or the Great Lakes.
Are the world's hottest countries getting hotter?
Scientific evidence indicates that the entire planet is getting hotter. As such, every country in the world, from hottest to coolest, will likely experience a rise in average annual temperatures.
According to the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded.
Moreover, multiple studies from sources including NASA and the NOAA indicate that the period from 2014-2020 was the warmest six-year stretch in at least the past 171 years.
Studies such as these offer overwhelming evidence that human-influenced global warming and climate change is both real and happening. However, significant questions remain regarding exactly how much temperatures will ultimately rise and what humans can and will do to prevent, counteract, or adapt to it.