Wildfires had been burning for weeks, shrouding Reno, Nev., in harmful smoke, when Jillian Abney and her eight-year-old daughter Izi drove into the Sierras last year in search of cleaner air. The eerie yellow haze that filled the sky had brought summer to an abrupt halt, canceling all of the season’s usual delights.
Abney headed for Donner Lake, hoping the higher elevation would put them above the smoke. But instead of the blue skies that had greeted her on countless trips throughout her life, she arrived to find smoke hanging in the sky and creeping through the valleys below. It smelled like a campfire, but those had been banned for the season.
“If it’s like that again this August, we are escaping,” she said.
Summer temperatures in Reno have risen 10.9 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, since 1970, making it the fastest warming city in the nation during the hottest months, according to an analysis by the nonprofit research group Climate Central. For two consecutive summers, smoke from blazes burning in California has choked the region, sending residents to the emergency room, closing schools and threatening the tourism industry.
It is among the sharpest examples of how climate change is fundamentally altering the summer months — turning what for many Americans is a time of joy into stretches of extreme heat, dangerously polluted air, anxiety, and lost traditions. [Continue reading…]