Changes in the Frequency of Extreme Warm-Season Surface Dewpoints in Northeastern Illinois: Implications for Cooling-System Design and Operation

Jesse Sparks Meteorology Program, Department of Geography, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois

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David Changnon Meteorology Program, Department of Geography, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois

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Jason Starke Meteorology Program, Department of Geography, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois

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Abstract

Warm-season (1 May–30 September) hourly dewpoint data were examined for temporal changes at two weather stations in northeastern Illinois during a 42-yr period (1959–2000). This area has dense population (greater than 8 million), and shifts to more or less atmospheric moisture have major implications on cooling demands. The 42-yr period was analyzed as two separate arbitrarily chosen equally sized periods, the early (1959–79) and the later (1980–2000) periods. Analyses of data from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and the Greater Rockford Airport showed a statistically significant increase in the number of hours with dewpoints greater than or equal to 24°C (an important cooling-plant threshold) in the latter period. Examination of heat-wave periods indicated that later (especially 1995 and after) heat waves contained many more extreme dewpoint values. These increases in extreme dewpoint characteristics in northeastern Illinois affect the operation of, and suggest shifts in design criteria for, air-conditioning systems and affect summer peak electrical loads.

Corresponding author address: Dr. David Changnon, Dept. of Geography, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115. changnon@geog.niu.edu

Abstract

Warm-season (1 May–30 September) hourly dewpoint data were examined for temporal changes at two weather stations in northeastern Illinois during a 42-yr period (1959–2000). This area has dense population (greater than 8 million), and shifts to more or less atmospheric moisture have major implications on cooling demands. The 42-yr period was analyzed as two separate arbitrarily chosen equally sized periods, the early (1959–79) and the later (1980–2000) periods. Analyses of data from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and the Greater Rockford Airport showed a statistically significant increase in the number of hours with dewpoints greater than or equal to 24°C (an important cooling-plant threshold) in the latter period. Examination of heat-wave periods indicated that later (especially 1995 and after) heat waves contained many more extreme dewpoint values. These increases in extreme dewpoint characteristics in northeastern Illinois affect the operation of, and suggest shifts in design criteria for, air-conditioning systems and affect summer peak electrical loads.

Corresponding author address: Dr. David Changnon, Dept. of Geography, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115. changnon@geog.niu.edu

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