The Present And Future Heat Waves Of Chicago

Children play in the spray of an open fire hydrant Chicago's south side in this 2012 photo. Sitthixay Ditthavong/AP, file
Children play in the spray of an open fire hydrant Chicago's south side in this 2012 photo. Sitthixay Ditthavong/AP, file

The Present And Future Heat Waves Of Chicago

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In the coming days, Chicago temperatures are expected to soar, with a maximum heat index of 110.

Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication says it is preparing for the possibly dangerous weather. It says the city will be making calls to elderly citizens and deploying emergency response workers to check-in on people. Chicagoans who need to cool off can seek refuge at cooling centers around the city.

Dr. Jeffrey Schaider says Chicago’s heat is dangerous, in part because of the humidity. That’s because our bodies use sweat to cool off. But in humid weather, sweat doesn’t evaporate efficiently.

“So even if you are in the shade, in these really high temperatures and very high humidity, your body temperature may will just increase higher and higher,” Schaider said.

Click play above to hear an extended interview with Dr. Schaider.

During extreme heat, people without air conditioners are advised to keep blinds closed but windows open. Citizens are asked to check on their neighbors and keep an eye out for vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly.

Officials are also warning drivers not to leave pets in the car. Animal control in Portage, Indiana is adding parking lot patrols to check for trapped pets. If animals are found alone in the car, police will be called to locate the owner or to open the vehicle, and drivers will be ticketed.

The Climate Connection

The weather in Chicago varies and Midwesterners expect some extreme temperatures every now and then. So the massive heat wave that is predicted to the middle of the country isn’t by itself an indication of a warming planet.

But when scientists zoom out and look at the broader global picture, it’s clear that something big is happening. According to NASA, every month in the first half of this year, has broken global heat records. That’s after 2015 set the record for the hottest year in modern weather history.

These trends are consistent with what scientists predict to happen from global warming. Chicago has a climate action plan that includes ways the city can adapt to rising temperatures, including combating the urban heat island effect.

The Union of Concerned scientists says if humans do nothing to curb carbon emissions, heat related deaths are predicted to quadruple by 2050. In Chicago, deadly heat waves like the one in 1995 could occur three times a year by the end of this century.

Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ follow her @shannon_h. Susie An and Jenn White contributed to this report.