City Cast

Which Chicago Neighborhoods Are Literally Heating Up?

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on July 11
Headshot of Chicago Tribune reporter Sarah Macaraeg

Tribune’s Sarah Macaraeg (Courtesy of Sarah Macaraeg)

As the planet’s daily temperature reaches new highs, we’re looking at why some Chicago neighborhoods are hotter than others. Tribune’s Sarah Macaraeg investigated the disparities due to our built environment.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Where are the hottest places in Chicago?

“In general, you see a lot of overlap with places that are more industrialized. There's a huge belt on the Southwest Side that is among the hottest. And whenever we say hottest, [that means] places that are hotter than 90% of the rest of Chicago. We certainly see a part of the Northwest Side with a pocket with a lot of heat. There are outliers on the Southeast Side.”

What about the lake effect?

“A climatologist said the lake is a ‘climate forcing element’ so it does impact our local weather. But [if you look at the map], you see little clusters closer to the lake are hotter than places further. So the pattern does not hold.”

What are some solutions?

“Parks, like many other interventions experts talk about, have proven research behind them. Researchers found that painting roofs white, which reflects the sun rather than sort of absorbing and radiating heat, made more of a difference than introducing trees, which isn’t to say you have to choose. The other part of that equation is what do the people who live there want.”

Chicago Tribune and Boston University School of Public Health analysis of U.S. Geological Survey Landsat-8 and Landsat-9 satellite data. Map by Jason Rundle, BU School of Public Health’s Center for Climate and Health, using geography from the City of Chicago Data Portal and U.S. Census Bureau.

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