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How Do Heat Waves Affect Your Neighborhood? City Wants Volunteers For Study On Climate Change Impact

The city wants to find better ways to keep people safe during heat waves, so residents are being asked to monitor temperatures in their neighborhoods.

A rainbow forms as children in Back of the Yards play in water from a fire hydrant during 100°F temperatures in Chicago on the first day of summer, June 21, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city is looking for volunteers to help record temperatures this summer to see which areas of the city suffer most from heat waves.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is launching the “Heat Watch 2023” study that will map out which parts of the city are most impacted by worsening heat waves brought on by climate change.

Volunteers are being sought for the study, which will ask participants to drive around their neighborhoods recording weather conditions on a to-be-determined day when temperatures reach their summer peak, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Heat sensors will be given to volunteers to be attached to their own personal cars. The sensors will record temperature, humidity, time and location. That data that will be used to give city officials “a clearer picture of ways to improve Chicago’s heat safety strategies,” the health department said on its website.

To volunteer, click here.

Chicago is one of 18 cities participating in the national government study to map out the health impacts of extreme heat, which can disproportionately impact the most vulnerable and disinvested areas.

A Chicago Tribune investigation found that vulnerable populations and communities on the South and West sides suffer most from heat waves. In 1995, a heat wave killed over 700 people in the city, with a majority of the victims being elderly or coming from disadvantaged communities.

In 2021, three elderly Black women died during a heat wave in their subsidized senior apartments in Rogers Park, a tragedy that sparked changes in housing policy in the city and state.

On top of escalating heat waves, the city experiences the “urban heat island” effect, where areas with heat-absorbing pavement and lack of trees and shade contribute to weather conditions.

Factors like tree cover, heavy traffic, air flow and density of buildings all contribute to how intense a heat wave is felt in communities, according to the city.

The study is also asking city residents to mark on a map where the urban heat island effect is felt most in the city and where residents go for a respite from heat. To add locations to the map, click here.

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