Preparing for more extreme weather in Illinois

[Writer] This is Sharon Parmet with research news from UIC, the University of Illinois at Chicago. I spoke with Samuel Dorevitch, research associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in the UIC School of Public Health about the consequences of climate change in Illinois and Chicago. Dorevitch said that the Midwest will experience a much warmer and wetter climate in years to come, and that heat waves, like the 1995 heat wave and extreme rain events, like the one we experienced in 2013, will become more common.

Dorevitch is actively involved in helping Illinois prepare for more extreme weather. Here’s Dr. Dorevitch:

[Dorevitch] UIC has been working with county health departments around the state trying to evaluate whether climate change is on their radar, and for the most part its not. Not so much because they haven’t heard of it but because they’re not sure, how, ¬†as a health department, climate change is related to what they do on a daily basis. So we’re helping them with educational materials, we’re providing heat alert warnings for the state, we’re providing messaging that could be used through Facebook or Twitter, or websites of health departments about a heat wave is expected, about cooling centers, about rest, water and shade, about worker groups like agriculture and construction that are at high risk for heat stress illnesses, we’re working with people who are involved in vector control, and mosquito-borne and tick-borne diseases because the kinds of ticks that used to be found in say, Arkansas, are now found in Illinois, so the diseases that used to be found in the Great Plains have moved north to the Midwest. So there’s a lot of education and planning that we’re doing and we’re trying to help health departments communicate this effectively to their communities.

[Writer] Dorevitch said that one thing we can do now to slow climate change is to reduce our own carbon footprints by driving less and urging our elected officials to support policies that encourage the use of renewable fuels such as wind and solar.

This has been research news at UIC, the University of Illinois at Chicago. For more information on how UIC is helping Illinois prepare for the health effects of climate change, visit braceillinois.uic.edu