Chicago, ILTop Climate Change Risks: Heat, Precipitation, Drought

Risk Snapshot

Climate Change Hazard Ratings for Chicago, IL

Ratings represent risk relative to North America. 100 is the highest risk for the hazard and 1 is the lowest, but does not indicate no risk. Flood and fire are rated based on the buildings in Chicago exposed to these hazards. See hazard sections below and check your address for details.

People in Chicago, IL are especially likely to experience increased risks from heat, precipitation, and drought.

Along Lake Michigan, built upon a former swamp, Chicago is fundamentally susceptible to the risks from increasing extreme precipitation. Climate change is making the water level in Lake Michigan more volatile, posing an extreme challenge to the infrastructure that the city is built upon. The city’s density of asphalt and concrete alson contributes a heat island effect that can intensify the dangers of heat waves.

Heat risk in Chicago, IL

The number of the hottest days in Chicago is projected to keep increasing.

In a typical year around 1990, people in Chicago, IL experienced about 7 days above 92.7ºF in a year. By 2050, people in Chicago are projected to experience an average of about 38 days per year over 92.7ºF.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heat waves, even in places with cooler average temperatures. See more information on heat risk. Everyone can take steps to reduce their risks from extreme heat.

Precipitation risk in Chicago, IL

The share of precipitation during the biggest downpours in Chicago is projected to increase.

A downpour for Chicago, IL is a two-day rainfall total over 0.8 inches. Around 1990, about 43.0% of precipitation fell during these downpours. In 2050, this is projected to be about 47.0%. The annual precipitation in Chicago, IL is projected to increase from about 35.8" to about 38.3".

Extreme precipitation in any form can pose significant risks. Climate change is increasing the potential for extreme rainfall or snowfall because warmer air can hold more water vapor. See more information on storm risk. Property owners can take steps to reduce their risks from extreme precipitation.

Drought risk in Chicago, IL

The average water stress in Chicago is projected to be higher around 2050 than around 2015.

The Chicago watershed, which contains Chicago, IL, has experienced 399 weeks (33% of weeks) since 2000 with some of its area in drought of any level, and 31 weeks (3% of weeks) since 2000 with some of its area in Extreme or Exceptional drought. Source: National Drought Monitor.

Climate change is increasing the risk of drought. Water stress (the ratio of water demand to supply) depends on how water utilities source water and their plans to adapt to climate change. Property owners can also take steps to reduce their risks from drought.

Flood risk in Chicago, IL

Buildings at risk in Chicago average about a 20% chance of a flood about 9.0 inches deep over 30 years.

Of 1198 census tracts in Chicago, IL, there are 352 where more than half of buildings have significant risk from surface (pluvial) flooding and riverine (fluvial) flooding. Property owners can check a specific address for flood risk including FEMA flood zone, then take steps to reduce their vulnerability to flooding damage.

Climate change is increasing inland and coastal flooding risk due to sea level rise and increasing chances of extreme precipitation. See more information on flooding risk.

Fire risk in Chicago, IL

The risk on the most dangerous fire weather days in Chicago is low. The number of these days per year is expected to increase through 2050.

Of 1198 census tracts in Chicago, IL, there are 34 where more than a quarter of buildings have significant fire risk, and 8 where more than half of buildings have significant fire risk. Property owners can take steps to mitigate their risks from wildfires.

Fire risk depends on proximity to vegation: densely developed urban areas have a much lower risk of burning than areas adjacent to wildland. Climate change increases risks from wildfire by creating hotter, drier conditions for fires to spread. ClimateCheck ratings of fire risk are based on projected weather conditions and U.S. Forest Service models simulating fire behavior.

How can we limit climate change and live in a transforming world?

The projections on this page describe a future that we still have a chance to avoid. To keep average global warming below 1.5ºC—the goal agreed on in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords—we need to act rapidly to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Understand Risks

The risks presented on this page reflect modeled averages for Chicago, IL under one projected emissions scenario and can vary for individual properties. To find out more, check a specific address and request a report describing risks to your property and in your area.

Reduce Emissions

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states: “If global emissions continue at current rates, the remaining carbon budget for keeping warming to 1.5ºC will likely be exhausted before 2030.” This remaining carbon budget is about the same amount as total global emissions 2010-2019.

In the United States, the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation (about 30%). Globally the vast majority of transportation-related emissions come from cars and trucks, followed by shipping and air travel, which is growing quickly.

Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. uses twice the average share of emissions for its buildings (including heating and cooling).

Estimate your emissions with the CoolClimate calculator.

Reducing emissions is necessary and possible across the globe and in every part of our society. Learn more with the Not Too Late project and the Project Drawdown introduction to climate solutions.

Protect Homes and Communities

Check our free report for tips on protecting your home from hazards.

Green infrastructure is a category of nature-based solutions for managing increasing precipitation. Find resources for individuals and municipalities through the EPA Soak Up the Rain initiative.

Planting trees and vegetation helps reduce extreme heat in urban environments. Cool pavements can also help. Search the Heat Island Community Actions Database to see what some municipalities have been doing to reduce extreme heat risk.

Read more about building resilience for communities: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Use the Common Cause tool to find your representatives, how to contact them, and information about political contributions and bills they have introduced.