NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — June 21 marked the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere and in just two weeks after summer’s commencement, Nellis is already seeing near record highs.
The latest heat wave to scorch Las Vegas and its surrounding communities brought Nellis’ average June high of 102 degrees up dramatically, at one point hitting 117 degrees according to the base operations weather center. Last month’s highest temperature came just 1 degree shy of Nellis’ highest ever recorded temperature of 118 degrees since 1942.
According to the Weather Channel, temperatures recorded at McCarran International Airport June 30 tied the record for the hottest day for any month of the year in Las Vegas and the city’s hottest day ever in June.
The extreme heat is having many effects on the day-to-day operations carried out on base, with perhaps the most direct action being taken on the flightline.
“In extreme temperatures like these, fighter aircraft can’t take off carrying bombs,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Farley, 57th Operations Support Squadron weather center shift manager.
Because air density decreases in higher temperatures, small aircraft carrying heavy loads require more speed to achieve the necessary lift to takeoff, a problem that can only be solved with a longer runway.
“Typically when it gets this hot we experience stronger winds that can turn into crosswinds which make takeoffs for any aircraft more difficult,” Farley said. He added that while fighter-type aircraft takeoffs will be restricted, cargo aircraft will not be affected by the heat alone because of their dual-engine layout and greater wing surface area.
Aircraft maintainers working on the flightline, along with other Airmen working in career fields that require time outdoors, will be subject to heightened temperature alerts that require mandatory rest periods and reduced work periods in direct sunlight.
Actions being taken to protect Airmen from the heat are a culmination of lessons learned from operating in an environment where the threat of heat-related injuries is all too real. According to Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski, LVFR has received 78 calls concerning heat-related illnesses since June 28, with 28 people being hospitalized.
Master Sgt. Francisco Escobar, 99th Civil Engineering Squadron NCO in charge of 911 dispatch, reports that Nellis emergency services responded to 28 such heat injury-related calls in the months of May and June, both of which saw above average temperatures.
In measuring and predicting weather, Nellis weather Airmen use advanced “Skew-T” technology that allows an almost instantaneous snapshot of the atmosphere. Combine that technology with ground-level surface observations and the weather center is able to accurately measure and predict base temperatures and advise air traffic controllers and aircrews on the safest procedures to follow.
This latest heat wave is bringing temperatures that impress even Nellis weather watchers, who’ve become accustomed to measuring triple-digit heat.
“Typically our average temperature for June is 102 degrees,” Farley said. “This year’s average was about 10 degrees higher than in the past.”
According to the National Weather Service, the latest heat wave to hit the West is expected to bear down on Nellis for the remainder of the week, fading into more average temperatures come mid-July.
For summer survival tips and information on heat-related illnesses contact the 99th Air Base Wing Safety Office at (702) 652-7602.