The Impacts of Climate Change on Outdoor Recreation in Nevada
Nevada is a breathtaking, awe-inspiring, mountain-filled marvel just waiting to be explored. With outdoor activities like paddleboarding, mountain biking, white-water rafting or ice fishing, there is no shortage of exciting things to do! When it comes to the Silver State, the attractions of Las Vegas have nothing on its great outdoors. Unfortunately, across the state outdoor enthusiasts are starting to feel the warming effects of a warming planet.
Rising temperatures are fundamentally altering the water cycle and shifting precipitation patterns in Nevada. In many areas, rain has become either increasingly abundant or in desperately short supply relative to longtime averages. At the same time, a warming climate is causing snow to melt earlier in spring, and more water to evaporate from bodies of water, soils, and more. As a result, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs are dwindling.
This is unfortunate news for Nevada’s water-based sports. Fishing, paddle boarding and water skiing, and are enjoyed by over 8 million people each year. As Lake Mead and other lakes dwindle and possibly dry out, the playgrounds these provide risk become nonexistent.
A study published in 2019 by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that the number of days the heat index will exceed 100 degrees will double. The region around Las Vegas will have it worse. Already substantially hotter than the central and northern parts of the state, southern Nevada now experiences around 99 days per year where the heat index reaches more than 90 degrees. By century’s end, the area could easily see as many as 150 days per year that cross this red line.
As outdoor enthusiasts we know how dangerous heat can be. In fact, heat causes more deaths in the US annually than tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. This is because extreme heat elevates the risk of dehydration and heat stroke, and can affect people’s cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems. As temperatures continue to increase, activities such as running, hiking and biking are becoming riskier and may force more people to stay indoors.
WILDFIRE RISK IS GROWING
As we’ve been able to observe in parts all around the American West, including Nevada, a warming planet helps create the conditions for dangerous, fast-moving wildfires. Forest are their most combustible starting about a month after seasonal snowmelt ends. With many areas seeing their snowpack melt up to four weeks earlier than just 50 years ago, forest, grasslands, and wild areas are now vulnerable to fires for a longer period of time. At the same time, warmer and drier conditions also make wildlands more susceptible to pests. Dry conditions, longer fire seasons, and pest infestations create favorable conditions for wildfires fires to quickly get out of hand. In a second, all that parched land and dead or dried-out plant life becomes tinder, igniting when the heat soars and lightning strikes or high winds down an active power line.
Outdoor enthusiasts in the local area of a wildfire may see their playgrounds destroyed or seriously damaged making hiking, trail running, mountain biking and camping less enjoyable or impossible. But wildfires also affect outdoor enthusiasts thousands of miles away. Even small wildfires produce astounding amounts of particulate air pollution, hampering people with respiratory problems and making it uncomfortable to breathe when we hike, kayak or mountain bike.
Outdoor playgrounds all over the globe are being affected by the climate crisis. Whether you paddleboard the lakes of Nevada, or ski the slopes of Michigan, our favorite rivers, trails, and beaches are on the line. It’s time to take our passion for the outdoors and turn it into action to protect it. Help stand for everyone’s playgrounds and join the Outdoor State. You’ll get access to tons of special content including inspiring videos, educational materials and ideas for enjoying the outdoors and be the first in line to hear about ways to take action to protect our playgrounds and outdoor lifestyles. Join Today!