Synoptic Climatology Laboratory : Dr. Kalkstein Biography

Dr. Kalkstein Biography

Dr. Laurence S. Kalkstein is a professor and 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 heat and health issues, including 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, a number of such systems are in operation in the United States, Italy, South Korea, Canada, and China. 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, 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’s most recent contracts include a collaboration with the 3M Corporation, to determine how the application of cool cities initiatives will improve the health and welfare of urban citizens. 3M manufactures a number of products that are used in urban “cool solutions” planning, as certain urban structural modifications, such as highly reflective roofing products, can cool cities and lessen heat-related negative health outcomes. In related research, Kalkstein serves as principal investigator and lead scientist within the Los Angeles Urban and Cooling Collaborative (LAUCC; consisting of university, governmental, and non-profit partners) to develop a comprehensive neighborhood plan to lessen urban heat island negative health impacts in that city; LAUCC just received a two-year grant from the U.S. Forest Service to pursue this research. He has also recently been funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council, to evaluate the impact of climate change upon heat-related negative health outcomes. He has served as lead author on IPCC Working Group II chapters relating to climate change and human health; he received recognition for this work from the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 2007 with Al Gore and the other lead authors. He serves as rapporteur and expert team member for several UN World Meteorological Organization open panels on extreme weather and human health, and was part of the team to publish a comprehensive assessment of climate extremes and mortality which was published in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society in July, 2017.

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, 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.

From 2012-2015, Dr. Kalkstein was assigned as the American Team Leader on a U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation contract (CRDF), and has collaborated 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. 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.

Throughout his career, he has published over 140 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 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.