Sin City has never been this hot this early in the year
Mid-week last week, the desert city experienced temperatures as high as 116 degrees (46.6 C), which the state has never reached this early in the year.
The Guardian reported that dust and smoke from nearby wildfires added to the discomfort residents felt as they staggered through the blazing heat.
“I am dying – I feel like I’m going to pass out,” a woman named Violet told The Guardian.
Climate researchers predict that the heatwave is only the first of several to hit the American Southwest due to the ongoing climate crisis.
The city is located near the centre of the Mojave Desert, where what meager water supplies available have been drying due to the increased heat and decreased rainfall in the region due to climate change. That region of the US is warming faster than almost anywhere else in the country, according to climate scientists.
The region is also experiencing a “megadrought” brought on by below-average snowmelt refilling major water sources, including the Colorado River.
Experts expect the situation in Las Vegas will continue to worsen as the summer months wear on.
“Nevada’s climate is changing,” the state government’s Climate Initiative website concluded. “In fact, Nevadans say, they are already noticing and impacted by these changes. Climate change has come home.”
A valet who spoke with The Guardian said car temperatures can reach 140 degrees, and that he has seen people pass out and begin shaking from the heat.
“It’s brutal,” he said.
Another Las Vegas worker, security guard Rafael Martinez, said he has seen people “pass out all the time.”
“I am sweating and I feel the heat, but I am not one to complain,” he said. “If you stand in the sun you are going to dry out.”
As temperatures rise, so do heat-related deaths.
The Desert Research Institute conducted a study of the years between 2007 and 2016, finding that heat-related deaths rose in Las Vegas from seven in 2007 to more than 45 in 2016.
While air conditioning can help stave off heat-related illnesses, poorer residents may not be able to afford effective in-home cooling. And for those without homes – Las Vegas is home to more than 6,000 homeless individuals – there is little respite from the heat.
Not only can heat kill, it can also increase the risk of chronic kidney disease as well slow down cognitive function.
Higher temperatures also pose problems for animals in the region. Desert birds in the Mojave have seen declining populations caused by a lack of water sources and farmers raising pigs have expressed difficulty keeping them cool.
A farmer speaking with The Guardian told them that they need to douse pigs in water regularly to keep them from overheating.