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The urban heat (and cool) island in Las Vegas

NSF Award:

Nevada Infrastructure for Climate Change Science, Education, and Outreach  (Nevada System of Higher Education)

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An NSF-funded analysis of historical, seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations in Las Vegas, Nev., has shown that the city is experiencing an urban heat island (UHI) at night and an urban cool island (UCI) during the day. UHI occurs when impervious materials such as highways, parking lots and buildings absorb heat during the day and slowly release it at night. Urban lawn and wet surfaces that contrast to the surrounding desert are thought to cause UCI, a decrease in surface air temperatures.

Urban climate change and irrigation demands in a desert community require a delicate balance. Results from this study will be used to address the uncertainty and impacts of urban climate change on the Las Vegas irrigation demands. Urban climate indicators can also provide guidance for future plans in regards to the impact on air quality, health, ecosystems, recreation and tourism, increased energy consumption, elevated emissions and greenhouse gases, and utilities management (such as energy and waste).

To complement this study, researchers will use remote sensing data to develop an urban canopy model.

Images (1 of )

  • the city of las vegas at night
  • table shows temperature changes caused by the urban heat island effect and the urban cool island effect
Las Vegas, Nevada at night.
Impervious materials can alter urban climates as shown by high (red) and low (blue) temperatures in Las Vegas.
Dan Sauceda, Desert Research Institute

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