Cooler Near the Lake

Cooler Near the Lake

" Why do weather forecasters  say cooler near the lake and not hotter inland?"  Great question!  This question was posed  by my fellow ChicagoNow blogger, Margaret Serious. You can read her post here.

In this post, I will attempt to address this question.

First, it's  just cooler by  the lake in the spring and summer. There are so many  wonderful activities along the lake shore--a day at the beaches, fireworks, Navy Pier,  the boat taxis to the Planetarium,  river  tours and sailing Lake Michigan.

Also the cool proximity to public transportation, cool architecture, and the magnificence of Lake shore Drive.  But I digress. We were talking about the weather!

Why is it cooler near the lake?  You could say the lake has its own weather. The lake is a real big body of water, and the City is on the southwestern edge  of it. The temperature of the lake water affects the  surrounding area.

There is the breeze off the lake--caused by low pressure over the warmer land, including metro Chicago, and high pressure over the cooler water. The combination pushes cooler air inland.

This is quite common in spring, as the lake water is still cold, even as the land is warming up. There can be quite a  variance between temperatures along the lake and areas further west---sometimes, as much as 20 degrees.  There can also be quite a temperature  difference between northern and southern suburbs.

And in the summer, when the City really heats up, that breeze off the lake has a cooling effect.  It sounds so much cooler on a hot day in July to say  "cooler near the lake."

Conversely, in the winter, it can be warmer near the lake. The water is still holding heat from the summer. The lake tends to moderate temperatures, causing cooler summers and warmer winters.  (Polar vortex notwithstanding)

To answer the second part of your question, while it is an accurate observation temperature-wise, we live with and along the Lake. It is not just a neighbor, it is our mirror. The city was built along the lake. It reflects our skyline and our imaginations.

You could say the City has its own weather, too-- or a microclimate, an urban heat island, and wind tunnels between the tall buildings etc. but that's for another post...



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  • Great explanation of a term we've all heard hundreds of times!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thanks for reading, Kathy! Have you ever taken the boat taxi from Navy Pier to the Planetarium? What a beautiful view!

  • Thanks for a wonderful answer. I love the images of the lake as our neighbor and mirror. Both ideas are, well, cool.

  • Many thanks for reading!

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