Answering questions about climate change using exhibits at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry

CHICAGO — Chicago and many other cities across the country broke all sorts of weather records last winter. Now, big questions come into play about whether these are new norms or just part of a temporary trend.

Dr. Patricia Ward, from Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, tries to take those questions and make them into experiences where patrons can find their own answers.

“There’s no age limit on learning or inspiration or inventive genius,” Ward said. “All of these things are so important at every stage of your life.

For decades now, Ward has been one of many people behind the scenes who work to get visitors to become more science literate, especially about things like climate change.

Chicago’s weather has been changing, just like the rest of the planet.

According to data compiled by the non-profit Climate Central, winter is the fastest warming season.

Read more: Latest Chicago news headlines

This past winter was the 5th warmest on record, and unless you were born before 1931, last winter was the warmest winter of your life.

Great Lakes ice was the lowest ever recorded at only 3% for the season, a stunning value considering the average since 1973 has been about 40% coverage.

The chance of a white Christmas is going down, and both this year and last, the seasonal snowfall total has been about half of the average.

Not only is more precipitation coming down in rain form, but it’s coming in heavier downpours as well, which raises the risk of flooding.

Data shows spring average temperatures in Chicago are up more than one and a half degrees, which doesn’t seem like much, but it translates to a growing season and allergy season that lasts about two weeks longer and starts earlier.

Warmer temps in the fall mean allergy seasons last longer, and many more days of mosquito season too, about a month more.

An estimated 938,000 people in urban heat hot spots suffer from temps in their neighborhoods that are 9 degrees warmer than in rural areas. And if they can’t afford air conditioning, they face a greater risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, when the body can’t cool down while they’re sleeping.

“So within our exhibits, we try to ground them in things that we understand, and that helps people understand a basic connection with the world, with the natural world and how it works,” Ward said.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to WGN-TV.