Oct 1, 2015

Twenty years after ‘95: What climate change means for heat waves, cities and forecasting

Chicago, IL
Payal Marathe
Argonne National Laboratory
Urban heat island. Image: NASA
Urban heat island. Image: NASA

The 1995 Chicago heat wave was a defining moment for the city. With four days of non-stop, sweltering heat and humidity, hospital emergency rooms were overwhelmed. There were thousands of heat-related illnesses and more than 700 deaths... One of the most common misconceptions about climate change is that locally cold temperatures are incompatible with global warming. On the contrary, climate disruption makes it difficult to predict local weather patterns with certainty, but guarantees more heat waves and other extreme weather events. Cities face a unique challenge: Temperatures in urban areas can be as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than in open air, thanks to the urban heat island effect