CR 24:243-254 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/cr024243

Relating changes in agricultural practices to increasing dew points in extreme Chicago heat waves

David Changnon*, Michael Sandstrom, Charles Schaffer

Meteorology Program, Department of Geography, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois 60115, USA

ABSTRACT: The temporal distribution of surface atmospheric water vapor levels during shortduration extreme heat events at Chicago was assessed. Heat events were characterized by at least 3 consecutive days with a minimum temperature greater than 24°C (75°F) and a maximum temperature greater than 35°C (95°F). Thirteen such heat events were identified during the 75 yr (1928-2002) record at Chicago Midway Airport located inside the city. Average dew points in events fluctuated considerably over time, but generally increased. Event average hourly dew-point values before the mid 1980s were generally below 21°C, rising to an average of 24°C during the mid 1990s. The temporal changes in dew-point values were related to 2 factors: (1) the existence of average to above-average regional precipitation anomalies occurring in May and during the 20 d period prior to the heat event, and (2) changes in agricultural practices that have led to enhanced evapotranspiration rates in the Midwest.

KEY WORDS: Short-duration heat waves · Surface dew-point temperature · Chicago · Climate variability · Evapotranspiration

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