LAS VEGAS — Reno and Las Vegas are the fastest-warming cities in the nation, according to a new report. Researchers at Climate Central found Reno is an average of 6.2 degrees warmer in this decade than it was in the 1970s, and Las Vegas is 4.6 degrees warmer.
University of Nevada Las Vegas professor Kristen Averyt said it’s not all due to climate change – between 50-75% of the warming may be tied to the urban heat island effect.
“We’re using impervious materials that also hold heat – so you’re talking about brick, asphalt, even cement,” Averyt said. “What happens is, the sun warms it during the day, and at night, when usually things would cool off, that doesn’t happen. So your nights end up warming quite a bit.”
Averyt said Nevada’s cities, where 98% of the population lives, could cool things off somewhat by planting more greenery around urban areas and using lighter-colored building materials that absorb less heat.
She noted the jump in temperatures in Reno also could be affected by the placement of the weather station at the airport between Reno and Sparks, an area that has seen a huge amount of development in recent decades.
Studies have linked hotter days and nights to more heat-related deaths, and to cardiac and respiratory issues that are worsened by more days with high ozone levels. Stephanie McAfee is the state climatologist and a professor at the University of Nevada Reno. She said the warming is a serious issue for public health.
“We know that heat does have real health effects, particularly for lower-income people who may not have air conditioning in their home or who may have to think very carefully about whether they can afford to run an air conditioner,” McAfee said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak has joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, committing the state to reducing greenhouse gases. UNLV also is working with the city of Las Vegas on its master plan and with Clark County on its climate action plan.