We get blizzards and heat waves in Chicago. Guess which one we get tomorrow? The forecast still calls for 36°C temperatures with heat indices around 42°C. But Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters is only 2.1 km from Lake Michigan. At Chicago's official weather station at O'Hare, which is 23.3 km from the Lake, it looks a bit grimmer: 37°C with a heat index of 43°C.
WGN's Tom Skilling and Bill Snyder admit that some of the models call for 38°C or 39°C, but they manually adjusted the forecast because the models don't all agree:
Temps at or above 100 in Chicago are rare. Since official records began in the city 153 years ago in 1871, there have only been 62 days with highs at or above 100 degrees. And at the Midway Airport site on the city’s South Side where weather observations have been archived since 1928, on only 92 occasions over that 95 year period has a reading of 100 degrees or higher occurred.
There’s a reason for the scarcity of such EXTREME HEAT. The fact is, nature finds ways to derail the development of such intense heat. That’s why as forecasters, we’re careful about predicting such readings and must ALWAYS MAKE IT CLEAR there are forces which have been around over the term of official weather observations which work to keep a 100-degree readings from happening. The best evidence currently available suggests a 99-degree high is a strong possibility Wednesday — a reading just one degree shy of a triple-digit reading and, if it occurs, a record breaker which would exceed the old August 23rd record Chicago high of 97 degrees. Thursday could see a 100-degree high, but the potential for a front to sag into the area and turn winds off the lake at some point in the afternoon isn’t completely off the table. ALSO, though not expected at the moment, the development of thunderstorms — even if close-by — can send a cooling outflow of air into the area aborting a 100-degree temperature.
What’s interesting is even if a cold front comes into the picture Thursday, the convergence of winds along that front can lead to heating which would be capable of sending Chicago-area highs to 100, which would tie the record for August 24 and become a windshift behind the front that would send temps falling.
(Note that WGN, unlike 95.6% of the world's population, still uses the obsolete Fahrenheit scale in its reports.)
In other words, 36°C is the low estimate for the heat we're about to get. If the temperature does get above 38°C, though, it will be the first time since July 2012 that we've experienced anything that hot here.
At least we have trees to shade our walks in my part of the city. Writer Tiffany Owens Reed lives in Waco, Texas, whose urban design she says better suits lizards than people:
Before the advent of air conditioners, hot weather was something that architects and city planners had to respond to with creativity. The weather was something to adapt to, to work with, to manage…not merely to escape. For example, in Bologna, architects responded to hot weather by building a network of covered walkways that allowed pedestrians to wander the city fully shaded except for the brief moments during which they crossed the street from one walkway to another. We can see a similar sentiment at play with the ornate covered passageways of Turin, Italy. In the U.S. when touring old cities like Charleston, South Carolina, we can see evidence of similar accommodations in the deep, wide porches circling old houses.
Seeing the city as a destination for humans to inhabit and explore, and as a conduit for experiencing nature would lead to different design priorities, similar to what we see with public splash pads, rivers cleaned up for public swimming, or railways turned into parks for lounging (as in the case of Manhattan’s Highline)
If the main assumption is that humans won’t be spending time outside, that discourages these kinds of weather-considerate features and what we get instead is what my husband and I have come to call “lizard architecture”: a homogenous style of design imported to cities by developers who lack regionally specific weather consciousness and that would probably be more conducive to designing for reptiles than for humans.
Lizard architecture might not be the most scientifically accurate name for this style of design, but it provides my husband and me much comic relief as we drive around, spotting massive, unshaded parking lots, exposed outdoor dining areas, and unshaded walkways…design features that make it extremely uncomfortable to be a human outside for extended periods of time. It’s the kind of design that indicates to me an overreliance on technology to solve our discomforts and an inability to imagine cities as spaces where folks might want to experience nature, even when it’s hot. More mindful, human-centric city designers would consider the possibility that humans actually want to be outside, not just as environments to move through as quickly and comfortably as possible.
Our heat wave should end Friday morning, with a cool front coming in from the north dropping temperatures as low as 16°C by Saturday night. Then we head into the last week of summer, with autumn officially beginning next Friday, when I plan once again to try walking a full 42.2 km.