BS in Earth Sciences
Earth and Soil Sciences Department
The growth of human settlements into vast urban metropolitan areas is often accompanied by relatively higher temperatures in comparison with surrounding rural countrysides, a phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect.” The city of Las Vegas has been selected as an examination of this trend because of its unprecedented urban growth in the last 50 years, which has been mapped by satellite imagery for several decades. Studying the growth of Las Vegas’ relatively new heat island can provide valuable insight into the causes and magnitude of all urban heat islands in general.
In this investigation, a series of temperature records were collected between the years 1973 and 2009 from two weather stations: one located in an urban area and the other located in a nearby rural area. The records from these weather stations were used to construct tables and figures in order to directly and effectively compare Las Vegas’ urban and rural climates. Analysis shows that the minimum temperatures in Las Vegas’ urban areas have been increasing at significantly higher rates than surrounding rural minimum temperatures. This trend has been especially pronounced since the early 1990’s, when the urban weather station used in this analysis became entirely surrounded by urban features. A comparative analysis of Las Vegas’ rural and urban temperature data produces statistically significant evidence for the presence of an urban heat island effect in the area.