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Las Vegas streets turn up the heat

Las Vegas streets: Orbital view of Las Vegas, in reds and oranges, with a red grid pattern throughout the city.
City of Las Vegas at 5:23 p.m. on June 10, 2022, as seen by NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument aboard the International Space Station. The Las Vegas streets are hotter than the buildings. That’s why you see the red grid. Image via NASA JPL.

Las Vegas streets: Yee-ow!

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory released this image on June 15, 2022, showing the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, as seen by NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) instrument. It shows the city at 5:23 p.m. on June 10, when Las Vegas reached a record daily high temperature of 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). That’s an air temperature. The ground was hotter still. And you can see that – within the city – the hottest surfaces were the streets. They appear as a grid of dark red lines in this image. NASA said:

Pavement temperatures exceeded 122 F (50 C), while the exteriors of downtown buildings were a few degrees cooler than paved surfaces. Suburban neighborhoods averaged about 14 F (8 C) cooler than pavement, and green spaces such as golf courses were 23 F (13 C) cooler.

Cities are usually warmer than open land because of human activities and the materials used for building. Streets are often the hottest part of the built environment due to asphalt paving. Dark-colored surfaces absorb more heat from the Sun than lighter-colored ones; asphalt absorbs up to 95% of solar radiation and retains the heat for hours into the nighttime.

In this image, patches of dark-colored volcanic rock south of Lake Mead are also noticeably hot.

Las Vegas forecast, next 10 days, here


And NASA also described the instrument that acquired this image:

ECOSTRESS measures the temperature of the ground, which is hotter than the air temperature during the daytime. The instrument launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018. Its primary mission is to identify plants’ thresholds for water use and water stress, giving insight into their ability to adapt to a warming climate. However, ECOSTRESS is also useful for documenting other heat-related phenomena, like patterns of heat absorption and retention. Its high-resolution images, with a pixel size of about 225 feet (70 meters) by 125 feet (38 meters), are a powerful tool for understanding our environment.

Bottom line: An instrument aboard the International Space Station shows the streets of Las Vegas as hotter than the rest of the city, in late afternoon on June 10, 2022.


June 17, 2022
Today's Image

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