Chicago seeks volunteers to track heat and humidity for a national climate study

Chicago is one of 19 U.S. metro areas taking part in the study of extreme heat in urban areas.

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Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick of Stone Temple Baptist Church in North Lawndale is helping the city find volunteers for a heat study this summer.

Brett Chase / Sun-Times

The city is looking for at least 200 volunteers to drive around during one of the hottest days of the year recording temperature and humidity as part of a national study on extreme heat in urban areas.

Chicago is taking part in a federal project mapping hot spots around the U.S. and needs volunteers to raise their hands for three-hour shifts for one day in July, a date that hasn’t yet been determined. Participants will be paid for gas.

To volunteer or learn more go to chicago.gov/coolchi.

The volunteers will drive in designated areas with a sensor attached to their vehicles that will read temperatures and humidity levels as well as time and locations.

The data will be collected and shared with federal government agencies and will also be used to help the city prepare for potentially deadly heat, a trend exacerbated by climate change.

A heat wave that hit Chicago in 1995 led to more than 700 deaths.

Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick of Stone Temple Baptist Church in North Lawndale recalls members of her community dying that summer. She’s helping the city get the word out on the heat map project and also has advocated for planting more trees, a strategy that can help reduce so-called urban heat islands.

“There’s a campaign that’s going to help us manage the heat? I want to be on board. I want to be part of that,” she said in an interview. “This is a way to participate in something that’s going to bless you and generations to come.”

A shortage of trees and an abundance of black asphalt and concrete are factors that can make hot summer days even hotter in parts of the city.

“We have trees. We just don’t have enough trees,” said Fitzpatrick, who was on hand Monday for a kickoff for the city project held in front of Stone Temple Baptist.

Other organizations, including churches and nonprofit groups, are also helping the city drum up support for the effort.

Adella Bass-Lawson, health equity organizer for People for Community Recovery in Riverdale, said her organization already has heard from residents interested in participating.

Chicago also is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service.

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Temperature sensors like this one would be temporarily mounted to cars of volunteers who drive through Chicago taking measurements of heat and humidity.

Provided / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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