Climate change factors already affecting southern Nevadans

LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- Southern Nevada already feels the effects of climate change, and that's saying a lot, considering it is one of the hottest, driest climate in the United States.

Dr. Tom Piechota from UNLV has been heavily involved in a current two-year study on the impacts of climate change in the southwestern United States.

He says some things are clear: Temperatures are going up and have been, especially over the past decade, which was the hottest decade on record.

Some of that can be attributed to urban sprawl, the increase in heat trapping concrete. But some is a direct result of global warming.

Scientists in the region believe temperatures will increase an estimated 2 degrees within 16 years, 4 degrees within 46 years and 7 degrees within 66 years. That would mean there can possibly be temperatures of 120 or better in the summer in Las Vegas, with summertime heat waves projected to become longer and hotter.

While the climate models are clear on rising temperatures, they're less sure about precipitation. But it's believed hotter temperatures will lead to less snowpack in the Rockies and less water running into the Colorado River and eventually Lake Mead, where southern Nevada gets 90 percent of its water.

Less water for more people means less water for your lawn, so there will be less grass in the valley, more desert landscape.

It's believed warmer temps could lead to a greater intensity of summer thunderstorms, which could lead to more flooding events.

Higher temps lead to larger, drier plants. When they catch fire, they burn hotter and faster, making them tougher to put out, putting homes and people in the area at greater risk.

Piechota says the changes will be gradual -- taken year-to-year they are hardly noticeable. But taken over 20 to 50 to 100 years - the changes will be dramatic.