Disparities in Chicago’s summer heat

Heat is the deadliest weather event, killing more people in an average year than hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and cold weather, according to the National Weather Service. Heat kills some directly through heat stress. For others, the heat exacerbates common chronic conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.

In 1995, approximately 740 Chicagoans died as a result of a four-day heat wave: more than 400 at the initial count and hundreds more from heat-aggravated conditions, as determined by an epidemiologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health. . People without air conditioning made up the majority of deaths that federal health authorities considered preventable.

“We will see more heat waves like the Chicago heat wave of ’95,” said Elena Grossman, director of the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “That will become a constant reality.”

People wait for a bus in temperatures nearing 100 degrees at South Kedzie Avenue and West Cermak Road in the Little Village neighborhood in June 2022.

As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of heat waves, face of city dwellers added risk from the urban heat island effect, in which man-made changes to the environment raise temperatures in metropolitan areas.

Temperatures also vary within city limits, putting vulnerable populations in even greater danger. To intervene where help is most needed, local officials and organizations in dozens of cities have participated in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration program launched in 2017. map heat disparities and increase public awareness.

But Chicago has never applied, according to NOAA. So the Tribune set out to identify which communities may be at higher risk and assess whether the city government is doing everything possible to help them survive sooner The next heat wave is coming.

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To provide Chicagoans with access to temperature trends in their communities, the Tribune partnered with researchers at Boston University’s Center for Climate and Health to create a searchable map showing average summer surface temperatures. throughout the city.

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City agencies promote the use of six official cooling centers and a number of other air-conditioned public places, such as libraries, during heat advisories. But the Tribune’s Boston University research partners found that a large portion of the city’s most vulnerable communities, with the highest average surface temperatures, do not have access to public refrigeration within a half-mile walking distance.

>>> See where the cooling resources are located

People walk down 26th street in temperatures nearing 100 degrees in the Little Village neighborhood last summer.

In trying to identify the hottest areas of Chicago, the Tribune realized that data from regular ground-based temperature sensors, like those at O’Hare and Midway airports, couldn’t paint a complete picture. Temperatures can vary from community to community, sometimes from block to block. The answer: Data from passing satellites.

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