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National Climate Assessment Predicts Less Frost, More Hot Days and Heat Waves for Future Chicago

A new report from the United States Global Change research program looks at the U.S. and climate change over the rest of the century, projecting hotter hot days, wetter winters, more 100-degree days, and deadly heat waves along the lines of 1995.

The latest National Climate Assessment was released today (PDF) in public-comment-draft form, predicting a  two- to four-degree increase in U.S. temperatures in the short run, and even more in the long run:

That means we can expect to see more “extreme weather events,” according to the report, such as heavy precipitation — particularly in the Northeast and Midwest — and intense Atlantic hurricanes. Other parts of the U.S. will experience heat waves and droughts, especially in the West.

By 2100, U.S. temperatures are projected to rise 3 to 5 degrees, under the most optimistic estimates — and 5 to 10 degrees if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.

What’s in store for Chicago? More frost-free days for your kids or grandkids (2070-2099), around a month’s worth:

frost free days global warming

Higher temperatures, depending on the level of emissions through 2050 (RCP 2.6 is a 70 percent cut, RCP is continued current emissions, and the other two are in between):

Wet winters and springs:

Warmer coldest days of the year, warmer hottest days of the year (“rare events,” in this context, means “those having a 5% chance of occuring during any given year,” so that “bitter cold winter days will be much less frequent across most of the contiguous U.S.").

heat events climate change

The high-pathway (assuming current emission trends) prediction for rare heat events is worrisome, because the worst natural disaster of the 20th century in Chicago was the 1995 heat wave. Expressed as a regional averge, the number of days over 100 degrees is expected to increase:

By comparison, Chicago’s three straight days of 100-degree temperatures this summer was the first time it had happened in 65 years. At one point the report actually focuses on Chicago, with a projection of heat-related deaths per year under two different scenarios (emission reduction and continuation of increase), compared to recent heat waves:

heat related deaths climate change


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