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With 2023 set to be warmest year on record, experts have warning for Chicago

Climate change is already affecting Chicago, experts warn
Climate change is already affecting Chicago, experts warn 02:46

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The current year 2023 is the hottest year on record - and not in a good way.

Brand-new climate data show this year is set to be the hottest in observational history - a dire landmark when it comes to climate change.

CBS 2's Tara Molina on Thursday caught up with local experts who explained the impacts expected in the Chicago area.

Top researchers and scientists all said the facts are simple – if you think climate change doesn't affect you, it's time to think again.

The record-breaking heat is hitting everyone's wallet, and more is expected in cities like Chicago.

On this early November day, we enjoyed sunshine and temperatures in the 50s in Chicago.

But looking globally - and looking at this past year – 2023 is considered "virtually certain" to be the hottest year in observation history.

\ies-all-months-1940-2023-dark.png (620×401) ( Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF

The data, compiled by the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service, shows that from January to October, average temperatures across Earth were 1.43 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, a level dangerously close to the 1.5 degree Celsius warming threshold climate scientists have long warned would bring significant challenges for people worldwide. The average experienced so far this year is also .10 degrees Celsius higher than the 10-month average for 2016, scientists said, which is the current record-holder for the warmest year.

Global daily sea surface temperature (°C) from 1 January 1940 to 31 October 2023, plotted as time series for each year. 2023 and 2016 are shown with thick lines shaded in bright red and dark red, respectively. Other years are shown with thin lines and shaded according to the decade, from blue (1940s) to brick red (2020s). The dotted line and grey envelope represent the 1.5°C threshold above preindustrial level (1850-1900) and its uncertainty. Data source: ERA5 C3S/ECMWF

"That represents a change in every single climate on earth - including here in the Midwest," said Illinois State Climatologist Dr. Trent Ford, "and it's that change in the climate which can be pretty significant as far as impacts."

Scientists have documented a steady increase in average temperatures across the world since the 1970s.

"We have grave concerns about what this means to society, and we need to take this issue very seriously," said Dr. Don Wuebbles an atmospheric scientist and climate change expert.

Wuebbles is known globally as an expert in his field.

"This extra heat – it's just amazing what it's doing. It means we've got a real problem. It's telling us what we've been saying all along that climate change is one of the most important issues humanity has ever faced," he said. "We are seeing more extreme weather; more intensity in extreme weather." 

That includes heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

"Some people will say: 'I'm not seeing any effect of climate change. Why should I worry about it?' Well, in fact, it is affecting you. It's affecting your pocketbook, if nothing else," Wuebbles said. "Because of the increasing intensity of severe storms, we're having more, all the time, of what are called billion-dollar events."

There have been more than 23 "billion-dollar events" this year.

But what does this mean to Chicago?

"It's impacting us - here in Chicago and Illinois," Ford said.

"For Chicago, the big concerns are heat waves," Wuebbles said.

Also of concern are issues we saw up close this past spring into the fall - flooding.

"More concerns about flooding. More concerns about high lake levels for Lake Michigan - and what does that does to the Chicago coastlines," Wuebbles said. "More potential concerns about algae in Lake Michigan and what that does to the water supply."

The impacts of those issues are expected to increase too. And the experts tell us this will become a trend- a trend we will notice here in Chicago.

"We haven't seen much in the way of impacts yet, but they are going to be increasing as the climate continues to change," Wuebbles said. 

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