Synoptic Climatology Laboratory : Dr. Kalkstein Biography

Dr. Kalkstein Biography

Dr. Laurence S. Kalkstein is Professor and a member of the voluntary faculty at the University of Miami’s Department Public Health Sciences, Environment and Public Health Division, Miller School of Medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and his Masters and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.

His team works closely with international weather, environmental, and public health agencies on projects dealing with the assessment, development and implementation of heat/health watch-warning systems for major cities. These systems are funded by both private and government organizations such as NOAA/National Weather Service, US EPA, various electrical utilities, local health departments, state environmental organizations, and government agencies in other countries. At present, over 30 such systems are in operation in the United States, nine are running in Italy, eight in South Korea, three in Canada, and one in China. In addition, three cold weather Health Warning Systems are in operation in the U.S. and Canada, and several experimental cold systems are being tested in Korea. Kalkstein and his colleagues have also just developed the first cold advisory system for cattle, or CANL (Cold Advisory for Newborn Livestock). This system, now in operation at a number of National Weather Service Offices in the Northern Plains, will be expanded nationwide by NOAA in the next couple of years, and advises ranchers when weather conditions are unsuitable for young livestock.

Dr. Kalkstein and his team are also actively involved in the development of various weather indices for use in applied climatological and climate/health analyses. These include air mass-based synoptic classifications and the development of a relative climatological index, the “Heat Stress Index” (HSI; funded by NOAA/National Climatic Data Center). Both indices are used widely by researchers around the world.

Dr. Kalkstein and his colleagues at the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory recently completed an extensive evaluation with the Union of Concerned Scientists on whether dangerously hot air masses are becoming more frequent and more extreme in the Midwestern U.S. The study gained much publicity during the summer of 2012, and results suggest that there are distinguishable upward trends in the frequency and heat intensity of air masses that are historically associated with heat-health problems. In addition, his research group is becoming more involved in urban “cool solutions”, to determine how certain urban structural modifications might make cities more habitable during very hot events. This work has resulted in a contractual arrangement with the Global Cool Cities Alliance to determine if urban cool technologies will lead to lesser numbers of extremely hot days and associated reductions in heat-related mortality. He is also beginning collaborations with other agencies and academic units on urban heat island and cool solutions research, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and the Washington, DC Department of Environment.

In 2012, Dr. Kalkstein was assigned as the American Team Leader on a U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation contract (CRDF), and he is collaborating with the Russian Team Leader (Dr. Elena Grigorieva) to develop a detailed climatology of eastern Russia, along with the health impacts of this extreme climate. This international contract will cover a two year period, and both teams met in Birobidzhan, Russia in 2013 to promote air mass-based methodologies that have been developed at the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory.

Dr. Kalkstein is past president of the International Society of Biometeorology, the largest biometeorological organization in the world. The ISB deals with wide-ranging research involving the impact of weather upon animals, plants, and human health and well-being. For example, the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory is in the midst of a multi-year research grant with the US Forest Service to determine the meteorological causes for the spread of a pine fungus in the Rocky Mountains, as well as gypsy moths in the midwestern U.S., projects perfectly suited for the ISB.

Kalkstein has served as a lead author and co-author on IPCC Working Group II chapters pertaining to the impact of climate change on human health. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with other IPCC lead authors, and has most recently advised research groups at the California Air Research Board, the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on a variety of applied climatological issues. In fact, the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory is in its seventh year of collaboration with the KMA, and this joint research has led to a much better understanding of weather/health relationships in South Korea.

Throughout his career, he has published over 130 peer-reviewed manuscripts, monographs, and book chapters in leading climatological, geographical, and medical journals and has been editor for two major climatological journals: Climate Research and the International Journal of Biometeorology. Most important, he has been collaborating with a number of his ex-graduate students and other young colleagues who have provided invaluable support in meeting the varied research demands of the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory. Many of these individuals are now professors at major institutions such as the University of Oklahoma, Kent State University, University of Miami, University of Virginia, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Millersville University, Texas Tech University and California State University, Los Angeles, and have developed major national and international reputations themselves. Others have undertaken successful careers at government or private institutions, such as Environment Canada, the National Climatic Data Center, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the U.S. Geological Service. These collaborations are perhaps the most satisfying success stories of the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory.