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Will recent extreme heat be the new normal for Las Vegas?

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Posted at 7:10 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 01:47:17-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Las Vegas is one of the fastest-warming cities in the U.S., rising on average 5.6 degrees for the summer average temperature.

You can see and feel the changes over the years.

In 2020, the Las Vegas valley had 158 days where temperatures were higher than 90 degrees. That’s 27 degrees above the annual average.

So far this year we’ve hit 57 days over 90 degrees and it’s only the beginning of July.

The city’s all-time high-temperature record is 117º.

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"With this heat event, in particular, why it’s more attention-grabbing is because the probability of reaching that [all-time record] is not a low chance," explained National Weather Service meteorologist Chelsea.

So we’re close. Saturday's forecast high is 116º.

There isn’t a simple direct cause for the increase in temperatures. There are many atmospheric and climate variables to consider. However, a top source is the urban heat island effect.

Development has increased rapidly over the past few decades and is on track to keep growing.

Other cities like Seattle, Denver, Washington, D.C, and Columbus are sometimes called urban deserts.

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In Southern Nevada, we take that in a literal sense. In short, when you remove vegetation and replace it with concrete and asphalt, it causes these areas to absorb more heat instead of reflecting it.

This makes urban areas much warmer than surrounding more rural places. Removing vegetation in an area lowers the amount of shading and water evaporation from soil and leaves.

These heat effects can be seen drastically in the rise of warmer temperatures at night in Las Vegas.

"What the temperatures are normally for Las Vegas have risen considerably over the past 30 years," Peters told us.

The combination of this heat island effect, weather patterns, and the global mean temperature rising all contribute to longer and more intense heat here. This heat in turn has negative impacts like drought and poor air quality which have become major issues in Southern Nevada.

MORE: Climate change contributing to record-setting heat, drought in Las Vegas

"Climate is knowing that it’s going to be hot in the summer. The day-to-day weather and how that weather pattern evolves and how hot it gets is when you are talking about the weather. They go hand in hand. The strength of these heat events happening more frequently is definitely a possibility because of the fact that our global temperatures are warming," said Peters.

Moms Clean Air Force is a national organization with more than 8,000 members in Nevada. Their mission is to fight for cleaner air and combat changes in the climate. These moms want to make the community more aware of the dangerous impacts this heatwave can have on families, especially children.

Moms Clean Air Force state coordinator Cinthia Moore told us, "I’m a mom of a 4-year-old. I grew up in Las Vegas and his childhood is completely different than mine."

While it was hot when Moore was younger, she says she didn’t have to worry so much about breathing issues but her son experiences breathing issues and has problems with the extreme heat.