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Environmental Science

Community Research on Climate and Urban Science (CROCUS)

A Chicago-based Urban Integrated Field Laboratory led by Argonne National Laboratory

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this fraction is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. It is, therefore, imperative to understand, intervene, and mitigate climate change impacts in urban settings. Argonne’s environmental scientists are building the foundation for an urban climate research ecosystem that responds to this need and will eventually expand to include broader themes, such as community health and socioeconomic implications, efficient transportation, and others.

CROCUS will pursue the fundamental scientific understanding that will ultimately be necessary to inform the design and deployment pathways of technical solutions that promote social equity and enhance urban resilience in response to the climate crisis. In doing so, CROCUS will train and educate a skilled workforce that will be engaged and productive in the transition to a clean energy urban system.


Climate change has compounded challenges in Chicago’s low-income, predominantly minority neighborhoods by amplifying heat islands, poor air quality, high energy costs, and flooding. These challenges are pervasive and negatively impact the economic, social, and health status of these communities, yet they are historically poorly understood.

Long-standing environmental injustice conditions have created unequal degrees of protection in these communities from environmental, economic, and health hazards exacerbated by climate change. As a large city with a Great Lakes coastline, Chicago has significant environmental justice issues, a complex water system, and heterogeneous atmospheric and climate conditions at the local level. Chicago presents an urban ecosystem ripe for in-depth study. This work will also inform research in other urban settings and the adoption of climate solutions in other communities elsewhere most vulnerable to climate change.


The CROCUS research approach will integrate observations and modeling of local climate change and its impact on scales as granular as a city block or more. Example areas we will emphasize:

  • Observations with a network of deployed climate sensors, to provide the most granular assessment of environmental conditions that are currently unavailable;
  • Modeling with high performance computing, including artificial intelligence and machine learning;
  • Partnering with Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) around scientific research, educational and workforce development opportunities;
  • Impact of Lake Michigan on Chicago’s climate;
  • Clean energy transition scenarios development and assessment in underserved communities;
  • Communities help researchers identify the most pressing research questions.

CROCUS has gathered a collaborative team with community and environmental justice leaders, scientific community, and institutional stakeholders in the region. The insight the scientific team receives from these stakeholders will inform the scientists’ research and position the stakeholders as active contributors to CROCUS.

A significant set of contributors to CROCUS will be MSIs and HBCUs. These collaborators will actively contribute to the scientific research, bridge urban communities with the researchers, grow the climate-related research capacity of the region, improve researcher diversity to address the underrepresentation of people of color in the nation’s scientific workforce, and train the next generation of climate and environmental workforce.

The CROCUS team includes Argonne National Laboratory, academic institutions (Chicago State University, City Colleges of Chicago, North Carolina A&T State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Notre Dame, University of WisconsinMadison, University of Texas-Austin, and Washington University-St. Louis) and community organizations (Blacks in Green, Greater Chatham Initiative, Puerto Rican Agenda, and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus).