Chicago’s heat waves of 1988 and 1995–which one was worse?

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Dear Tom,
Two summers stand out in my memory for heat—1988 and 1995. Which one was worse and why?
—Linda Van, Lake Forest
Dear Linda,
The deadly combination of heat and humidity made the 1995 summer worse. While the 1988 summer had considerably more hot days, the city’s deadly 1995 heat wave featured three days with upper 90s and triple-digit temperatures and stifling dew points in the upper 70s and lower 80s, which produced heat indices as high as 125. This produced tragic consequences with more than 750 heat-related fatalities. The 1988 drought summer, with a record 47 90-degree plus days that included seven days of triple-digit heat, featured many days with a Chicago version of “desert-like” heat. Many of the hot days that summer had dew points in the 50s and lower 60s, delivering a drier, more tolerable, type of heat.

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