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Windy City Preparing for Reality of Climate Change

The New York Times recently featured an interesting article about what one major city is doing to prepare for the inevitable: global warming. The U.S. city of Chicago, known as the “Windy City,” is used to cold winters and pretty warm summers, but those summers could get a lot hotter, and soon.

A team of climate scientists put together a report for city planners about the future of Chicago as the city continues to get warmer. And the city was in for a shock: by the end of the century, Chicago could experience temperatures of 32 degrees (celsius) or more for up to 72 days. The city only got that hot for about 15 days a year during the last century. That added heat could have some serious consequences, like damaged roads and property as well as more heat-related deaths every year.

So city planners are being proactive. They’re using thermal radar to find Chicago’s hottest zones and adding green vegetation there instead of pavement to create a cooler surface. Concrete streets are getting a facelift, too, with a fresh coat of pavement that lets rainwater seep through into the ground below. And the state’s famous white oak trees are being replaced with special trees that keep cool in hot climates–like sweet gum trees.

Chicago wants cope with its warming temperatures now rather than later in the hope that the transition won’t be so tough later on. So what do you think: is this a good model for cities to prepare for the future?


May 31, 2011



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