In an article written for the Reno-Gazette Journal, the implication is that hotter temperatures in the city can be laid on the doorstep of man-caused global warming. The basis for the article is a nationwide study by U.S. PIRG, an "environmental advocacy group."
Among its findings:
In 2006, Reno experienced 74 days where the temperature hit at least 90 degrees -- 21 days more than the historical average. In 2006, the average temperature was 3.3 degrees above normal in Reno. Between 2000 and 2006, Reno's average temperature was 3.4 degrees above the 30-year average, the second-highest reading in the nation for the period. Nationally, the average temperature during the summer of 2006 was at least half a degree above the 30-year average at 82 percent of locations studied.
There are a couple of reasons to be skeptical of this article -- the main one being U.S. PIRG. The name sounds really official, right? The kind of group you can trust to be impartial in its analysis? In reality, it's a group with an agenda. Their recent accomplishments include stopping Congress from opening ANWR for oil drilling "[d]espite the power and influence of the Bush administration and ExxonMobil," "standing up to the Bush administration’s attempts to remove protections for roadless areas in our national forests" and "stopp[ing] the Bush administration’s EPA from allowing partially treated sewage to flow into waterways across the country, including the Great Lakes." Can you spot a trend?
Also, there is a noticable lack of opposite views from other scientific entities. Author Jeff Delong tried, but not hard enough:
Kelly Redmond, a scientist at the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, was unavailable to comment on the report. But in an earlier interview concerning climate change, Redmond said last summer's high temperatures were part of a noticeable trend across the region.
A "noticable trend." While this says nothing specific, the way it's worded seems to infer that were Redmond available, she would indeed agree with the study. And was there really no one else available for comment? Reno is home to the University of Nevada Reno. I'm sure there are plenty of scientists available for comment, and one or two of them might actually have a quibble or two with U.S. PIRG's findings. But, alas, we'll never know by reading this article.
I have a few other questions about the findings of the study. (Note: I was born in Reno and lived there for most of my childhood.) While quotes about the study naturally focus on Reno (it's being reported in Reno's main newspaper, after all), I would be interested to know the stats for the rest of the state. Nevada is the 7th largest state in the union, and much of it is lightly inhabited. (In fact, over 90% of the state is under federal control.) The main population centers are the Reno and Carson City areas, and Las Vegas. All of these areas have seen population booms within the past 15-20 years. Now, according to the U.S. PIRG release,
only a small portion of the temperature increases cited in the report can be attributed to the so-called "urban heat island" effect, in which heat is retained in the concrete of urbanized areas.
Does this take into account the huge surge in population in these areas? The last time I was in Reno, I was shocked to see how much development there was since I lived there, and I'm sure it's even more surprising today. How would the "urban heat island" effect compare today with, say, 20 years ago?
I'd say these questions are worth another article.