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Beat the Reno / Tahoe Heat

High Desert Sun Can Be Brutal


The Reno / Tahoe combination of high elevation and hot summers results in rigorous outdoor conditions. Here are some things to consider if you recently arrived from milder climes and are not yet used to our high desert environment.
  • Reno's official elevation, measured at the airport, is 4,498 feet.
  • Summer temperatures in the 90s are common, with an occasional trip above 100 degrees.
  • We can experience 24-hour temperature swings of 40 degrees.
  • It's dry; summer humidity is low, frequently down in the teens.
  • The sun is unobscured by clouds over 300 days a year.
  • Lake Tahoe's average surface elevation is 6,225 feet.
  • Summer temperatures at Lake Tahoe seldom exceed 90 degrees.
  • At 10,891 feet, Freel Peak is the highest mountain above the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Protect Yourself from Desert Heat

The Reno Fire Department (RFD), our first responders for medical emergencies, has advice for residents and visitors on how to keep cool and avoid heat related problems during the summer. Of particular concern are conditions such as heat stroke, which can lead to death if untreated. RFD suggest these basic rules for dealing with really hot weather:
  • Stay indoors if possible.
  • Wear cool, loose fitting, light colored clothes and a wide brim hat.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise and strenuous work during the hottest part of the day.
  • If it is really hot and you have no air conditioning, go to a place that has, such as a friend's home, a library, or a shopping mall.
  • Check on elderly neighbors and others who may be prone to risk from high temperatures.
  • Drink lots of water. Alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate problems with heat.
  • Use sunscreen regardless of your skin color.
  • Make sure pets have a cool place to rest and plenty of drinking water.
  • Never leave pets or children in a closed car. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees in a very short time.
Know the symptoms of heat related health problems. According to the RFD, "Heat stress disorders include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, which is characterized by weakness, extreme fatigue, nausea, headaches and a wet clammy skin, and heat stroke, which is a medical emergency caused by failure of the body's heat controls. In that situation, sweating stops, the body's temperature rises precipitously and results in hot dry skin, mental confusion, possible loss of consciousness, convulsions or even coma. When heat stress occurs, seek medical assistance immediately." For all medical emergencies in Reno / Tahoe, call 911.

The Sun Feels Hotter Up Here

At 4,500 feet, we are a little closer to the sun than at sea level, but that isn't why the sun's rays feel hotter and many people get sunburned faster. The real reason is the thinner atmosphere; there are simply fewer air molecules to block and deflect burning ultraviolet (UV) rays than lower down. According to the National Science Foundation, there is approximately a 4% increase in UV levels per 1,000 feet of altitude gain. Do the math and you get about 18% more UV in Reno than at sea level. Up at Lake Tahoe, it's over 24%. Now you know why the sun up here feels so fierce and why using appropriate sun protection is important to health and comfort in Reno / Tahoe.

The UV Index scale is used to determine levels of risk according to amount of UV exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a searchable UV Index Forecast Map that lets you check the UV exposure risk in Reno / Tahoe and other locations around the country.

Source: Some information in this article from news releases issued by Reno Connect notification service.

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