Heat Watch 2023: Volunteers, heat sensors uncover Chicago's hottest spots

When it comes to getting through a heat wave, not all neighborhoods are created equal — some are significantly hotter than others.

This summer, the Heat Watch 2023 Campaign is designed to zero-in on exactly where Chicago's hot-spots are, quite literally.

"Here we've got this beautiful boulevard and tree canopy," said Kyra Woods, Climate & Energy Policy Advisor with the City of Chicago. "But we know not all areas of the city look this way."

Just how hot a neighborhood becomes during a heat wave depends on many factors: tree coverage, humidity, air flow, traffic, density of buildings, amount of concrete, and – of course – proximity to Lake Michigan.


In July, teams of volunteers will zero-in on where Chicago's hottest pockets are with great precision. Using heat sensors attached to vehicles, they will help generate a citywide heat map, identifying the hottest and coolest areas of each neighborhood.

"This is for you," said Alvyn Walker with Windsor Park Lutheran Church, in a call-out to volunteers. "What we're trying to promote here today is for the people, but it's also in a manner that is by the people."

Heat Watch Chicago 2023 is a partnership between the city of Chicago and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). When it's complete, Chicagoans will have an interactive map so they know where to avoid and where to go to beat the heat.

"We're looking forward to working with our community to explore how the city can improve existing programs and strategies and come up with other ways to help keep residents safe and cool throughout the summer and into the fall," said Woods.

Volunteers will work in pairs: one driver and one navigator. They will be outfitted with a sensor for their cars which will track heat, humidity, location and time.

If you are interested in helping out, visit chicago.gov/coolchi.