Death Valley, California.

Death Valley, California.

The hottest temperature recorded on earth is not as hot as previously thought, after the World Meteorological Organisation declared the phenomenal 58 degrees recorded in Libya 90 years ago was wrong.

Instead, the sizzling title goes to Death Valley, California, where in July 1913, a top temperature of 56.7 degrees was recorded.

That compares to Australia's highest recorded temperature of 50.7 degrees, recorded in Oodnadatta, South Australia, in January 1960.

The revised pecking order emerged after a panel of climate experts reviewed the method employed to take the temperature in El Azizia, south-west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in 1922.

The experts concluded that the thermometer used was not standard and determined that the person who measured the temperature was probably inexperienced.

"We're pretty sure that the person who was tasked with taking the measurements using this instrument didn't know how to use it," said Randy Cerveny, who headed the World Meteorological Organisation project.

An expert on climate extremes, Mr Cerveny said the original 1922 logbook had data recorded in the wrong columns, which reflected a degree of inexperience.

He theorised that the unidentified individual had in fact completely misread the thermometer "and was off by 5 degrees Celsius".

It is not unusual for records to be reviewed. Climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology Blair Trewin said not all readings survived scrutiny.

Among the more famous not to make the record books was the 53 degree temperature taken in Cloncurry, in north-west Queensland, in 1889.

"We found documentary evidence for that which showed the measurement was taken in - would you believe - a beer crate nailed to the side of a house," he said. "That would certainly have affected the reading ... which was probably somewhere around 47 degrees."

In Australia, standard screens used to cover thermometers in the field came in progressively between 1890 and 1910.

Dr Trewin said the record books only contained readings taken in these screens, as they standardised the equipment. Regular reviews are still undertaken, though, as instrument faults or clerical errors can still occur.

After Oodnadatta, South Australia, the next hottest recorded places in Australia are all in the west; Mardie in Western Australia (50.5C in February 1998), Emu Creek, Western Australia (49.8C in February 1998), Mundrabilla, Western Australia (49.8C in January 1979) and Forrest, Western Australia (49.8C in January 1979).

The coldest recorded place is Charlotte Pass in NSW where the mercury plunged to -23 in June 1994. Kiandra in NSW wasn’t far behind with -20.6C recorded in August 1929, followed by Perisher Valley, NSW (-18.0 in June 1994), Thredbo (Top Station), NSW (-14.7 in July 1980) and Gudgenby, ACT (-14.6 in July 1971).

- with AFP