Katharine Hayhoe, Scott Sheridan, Laurence Kalkstein, Scott Greene

Journal of Great Lakes Research

Published date March 29, 2010

Climate change, heat waves, and mortality projections for Chicago

  • Estimate the frequency of 1995-like heat wave events in terms of both meteorological characteristics and impacts on heat-related mortality (using future projections under SRES higher (A1FI) and lower (B1) emission scenarios)
  • Finds that before the end of the century, 1995-like heat waves could occur every other year on average under lower emissions and as frequently as three times per year under higher
  • Models project that annual average mortality rates would equal those of 1995 under lower emissions and reach twice 1995 levels under the higher scenario
  • Uses an “analog city” analysis to see how the equivalent weather conditions from the European Heat Wave of 2003 (responsible for 70,000 deaths across Europe) would impact the city of Chicago
  • Estimates that if a similar heat wave were to occur over Chicago, more than ten times the annual average number of heat-related deaths could occur in just a few weeks
  • Climate projections indicate that an (extreme heat wave)-type heat wave could occur in Chicago by mid-century
  • Finds that between mid- and end-of-century, there could be as many as five such events under lower, and twenty-five under higher emissions
  • Results highlight the importance of both preventive mitigation and responsive adaptation strategies in reducing the vulnerability of Chicago's population to climate change-induced increases in extreme heat