DOWNTOWN — By the end of this century, Chicago could be dealing with three times as many 90-plus-degree days, if not more.
That's according to data from the United States Geological Survey Center for Integrated Data Statistics Downscaled Climate Data Portal, which predicts how Global Warming will affect future temperatures.
Listen to Justin Breent talk about climate changes headed Chicago's way.
The Nature Conservancy took that data and created a time-lapse map showing how the contiguous United States could be affected in 25-year chunks.
Chicago currently has up to 30 90-degree-or-hotter days a year. By 2099, the city is predicted to have between 60-90 of those days, based on current emissions released into the air and how those emissions will continue into the future.
"It's frightening and it's daunting, and it's the reality that confronts us unless we make changes as a society very soon," said Jeff Walk, the Nature Conservancy in Illinois' acting director of conservation.
Walk said this is how the warmer weather could affect Chicago:
• The urban tree canopy likely will look different. Burr oaks, which can tolerate warmer, drier conditions, should be OK, but trees like sugar maples that prefer cooler climates could face peril.
• Animals that live in cooler streams and wetlands like small fish, frogs, dragonflies, salamanders and fresh water mussels could be seriously threatened. Animals and birds like pigeons and rats that fare well in cities should not be affected, but Chicago could see an influx of wildlife that currently lives in southern states like armadillos and certain types of blackbirds.
• Lake Michigan levels are hard to predict, Walk said, but he noted it's very unlikely we'll see the same rising lake levels as are expected in coastal states with rising sea levels.
• Besides warmer weather, the city could see far less snow cover. More concerning is the possibility of "catastrophic ice storms," Walk said. That's because more considerable rain showers are expected to hit Chicago as the century advances, Walk said. During colder months, if those rain storms hit at the right time, freezing temperatures could quickly turn the deluge into ice.
"That's the scary part," said Walk, who has a bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University and a master's degree from University of Illinois. "We'd go from a potential 18-inch snow storm to a 3-inch ice storm."
Walk said Chicagoans should care about the future temperatures even though most of them alive now won't be living by 2099. He said planting trees, reducing greenhouse gasses as much as possible and using green space to capture stormwater are solutions.
"We can bend the arc so that climate changes aren't as horrible as they might be," he said.
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