International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 71–83 | Cite as

Climate and heat-related emergencies in Chicago, Illinois (2003–2006)

  • Donna A. Hartz
  • Jay S. Golden
  • Chona Sister
  • Wen-Ching Chuang
  • Anthony J. Brazel
Original Paper


Extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths in the United States than floods, hurricanes and tornados combined. Yet, highly publicized events, such as the 2003 heat wave in Europe which caused in excess of 35,000 deaths, and the Chicago heat wave of 1995 that produced over 500 deaths, draw attention away from the countless thousands who, each year, fall victim to nonfatal health emergencies and illnesses directly attributed to heat. The health impact of heat waves and excessive heat are well known. Cities worldwide are seeking to better understand heat-related illnesses with respect to the specifics of climate, social demographics and spatial distributions. This information can support better preparation for heat-related emergency situations with regards to planning for response capacity and placement of emergency resources and personnel. This study deals specifically with the relationship between climate and heat-related dispatches (HRD, emergency 911 calls) in Chicago, Illinois, between 2003 and 2006. It is part of a larger, more in-depth, study that includes urban morphology and social factors that impact heat-related emergency dispatch calls in Chicago. The highest occurrences of HRD are located in the central business district, but are generally scattered across the city. Though temperature can be a very good predictor of high HRD, heat index is a better indicator. We determined temperature and heat index thresholds for high HRD. We were also able to identify a lag in HRD as well as other situations that triggered higher (or lower) HRD than would typically be generated for the temperature and humidity levels, such as early afternoon rainfall and special events.


Biometeorology Heat-related emergencies Heat morbidity Heat waves Urban heat island 



This work was partially supported by the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Contract 30-07184-03 CDC/Task Order 0078), the City of Chicago Department of Environment, and the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations for Urban Climate and Energy (w at Arizona State University. We would like to thank: Dr. Elizabeth Wentz, for her help in reading the paper and her suggestions for improving the spatial components; Sainan Zhang and Kelly Mahon for their help with geocoding and GIS techniques; and the reviewers for their helpful suggestions for improving this paper.


  1. Bassil, K. L., D. C. Cole, R. Moineddin, A. M. Craig, W. Y. W. Lou, B. Schwartz, and E. Rea. 2009. Temporal and spatial variation of heat-related illness using 911 medical dispatch data. Environmental Research 109 (5):600-606.Google Scholar
  2. Conti S, Meli P, Minelli G, Solimini R, Toccaceli V, Vichi M, Beltrano C, Perini L (2005) Epidemiologic study of mortality during the Summer 2003 heat wave in Italy. Environ Res 98:390–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Diaz J, Jordan A, Garcia R, Lopez C, Alberdi JC, Hernandez E, Otero A (2002) Heat waves in Madrid 1986–1997: effects on the health of the elderly. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 75:163–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dolney TJ, Sheridan SC (2006) The relationship between extreme heat and ambulance response calls for the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Environ Res 101:94–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Environmental Protection Agency (2008) The heat island effect. Chicago. Available at: Accessed: 4 May 2008
  6. Fouillet A, Rey G, Laurent F, Pavillon G, Bellec S, Guihenneuc-Jouyaux C, Clavel J, Jougla E, Hemon D (2006) Excess mortality related to the August 2003 heat wave in France. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 80:16–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Golden JS, Hartz D, Brazel A, Luber G, Phelan P (2008) A biometeorology study of climate and heat-related morbidity in Phoenix from 2001 to 2006. Int J Biometeorol 52:471–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gosling S, Lowe J, McGregor G, Pelling M, Malamud B (2009) Associations between elevated atmospheric temperature and human mortality: a critical review of the literature. Clim Change 92:299–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hajat S, Armstrong B, Baccini M, Biggeri A, Bisanti L, Russo A, Paldy A, Menne B, Kosatsky T (2006) Impact of high temperatures on mortality: is there an added heat wave effect? Epidemiology 17:632–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hutter HP, Moshammer H, Wallner P, Leitner B, Kundi M (2007) Heatwaves in Vienna: effects on mortality. Wien Klin Wochenschr 119:223–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jones TS, Liang AP, Rilbourne EM, Griffin MR, Patriarca PA, Wassilak SGG, Mullan RJ, Herrick RF, Donnel HD Jr, Choi K, Thacker SB (1982) Morbidity and mortality associated with the July 1980 heat wave in St. Louis and Kansas City, MO. J Am Med Assoc 247:3327–3330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kalkstein LS, Smoyer KE (1993) Human biometeorology - the impact of climate-change on human health - some international implications. Experientia 49:969–979CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Klinenberg E (2002) Heat wave: a social autopsy of disaster in Chicago. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  14. Knowlton K, Rotkin-Ellman M, King G, Margolis HG, Smith D, Solomon G, Trent R, Paul E (2009) The 2006 California heat wave: impacts on hospitalizations and emergency department visits. Environ Health Perspect 117 (in press)Google Scholar
  15. McGeehin MA, Mirabelli M (2001) The potential impacts of climate variability and change on temperature-related morbidity and mortality in the United States. Environ Health Perspect 109:185–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nakai S, Itoh T, Morimoto T (1999) Deaths from heat-stroke in Japan: 1968–1994. Int J Biometeorol 43:124–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nitschke M, Tucker GR, Bi P (2007) Morbidity and mortality during heatwaves in metropolitan Adelaide. Med J Aust 187:662–665Google Scholar
  18. NOAA (2007) Heat wave: a major summer killer. Available at: Accessed 2 Dec. 2008
  19. Rothfusz LP (1990) The heat index equation: or, more than you ever wanted to know about heat index. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Available at: Accessed 7 April 2007
  20. Saez M, Sunyer J, Castellsague J, Murillo C, Anto JM (1995) Relationship between Weather Temperature and Mortality: A Time Series Analysis Approach in Barcelona. Int J Epidemiol 24:576–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sheehan C, Noel J (2005) Power outage adds to the heat - Fire at substation leaves 51,000 in dark. Chicago Tribune (IL), 1Google Scholar
  22. Tan JG, Zheng YF, Song GX, Kalkstein LS, Kalkstein AJ, Tang X (2007) Heat wave impacts on mortality in Shanghai, 1998 and 2003. Int J Biometeorol 51:193–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2007) State of the World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth, 108: United Nations. Available at: Accessed 18, Feb. 2009
  24. Weisskopf MG, Anderson HA, Foldy S, Hanrahan LP, Blair K, Török TJ, Rumm PD (2002) Heat wave morbidity and mortality, Milwaukee, Wis, 1999 vs 1995: an improved response? Am J Public Health 92:830–833CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© ISB 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donna A. Hartz
    • 1
  • Jay S. Golden
    • 2
  • Chona Sister
    • 3
  • Wen-Ching Chuang
    • 4
  • Anthony J. Brazel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations