A Cooler Chicagoland
Discovery Partners Institute, ComEd collaborate on precision planting to help urban areas use trees for increased climate change resiliency
A new collaboration with power company ComEd spotlights the future-focused work happening at Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System. One of 15 Illinois Innovation Network hubs, DPI focuses on tech talent development, applied research and development, and business building
To get to the how and why of the ComEd collaboration, the DPI team fielded questions about the data modeling and machine learning that are key to ComEd’s tree-planting plan to enhance Chicagoland climate resiliency.
What is ComEd’s resilient canopies initiative?
ComEd is investigating natural responses to climate change including afforestation which uses tree planting to reduce ambient temperatures. This can help at-risk communities often hard hit by heatwaves.
How is Discovery Partners Institute helping?
DPI uses sophisticated analytical techniques to evaluate how tree canopy coverage reduces temperature and energy demand amid our world’s changing climate. For example, on a typical day the temperature within a block can vary as much as 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit with quality tree shade compared to open sidewalks. DPI uses advanced computing combined with visualization to identify optimal tree allocation to maximize natural cooling in the Chicago region. This helps mitigate the detrimental rising temperatures that climate change causes.
How does DPI use data to suggest the best possible locations for tree planting?
Using high-performance computing combined with advanced geographical information systems (GIS) analyses, we are developing heat-exposure maps for the current and future climate so we can identify strategic locations to plant trees to reduce heat impacts.
Who can benefit from this work?
In Chicago, at-risk south- and west-side communities have seen some of the most significant public health impacts from heatwaves. Because climate change is likely to make extreme heat events more frequent, longer lasting, and intense, strategies like these are important tools to ensure an equitable energy transition.
Why is DPI uniquely qualified to perform this kind of work?
DPI is uniquely positioned to strengthen academic-industry partnerships. Our excellent team of researchers and corporate-engagement professionals works collaboratively with industry to solve pressing problems that impact their businesses and communities. For this project, DPI experts in climate science and urban sustainability are helping make Chicago communities and ComEd infrastructure more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Why is climate change mitigation important to DPI in Chicago and beyond?
Climate change affects us all. As we continue to experience its devastating effects, we must work together to address challenges. In Chicago alone, projections show a substantial increase in the likelihood of more intense heat waves and storms by 2050. Extreme heat and flooding could greatly impact Lake Michigan shorelines and the Chicago region. DPI leads climate change mitigation efforts in Chicagoland and globally while helping the region cope with climate change impacts.
How does the state of Illinois benefit from DPI’s climate-focused expertise?
We must find ways to become more resilient without causing greater adverse effects. One way we can reduce the impact of rising temperatures is with more extensive and strategically planned tree canopy coverage at targeted locations. Besides reducing temperature, trees also have a dramatic effect on improving moods, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure. The broader research and development DPI conducts aims to improve quality of life for all Illinois residents.