The Synoptic Climatology Laboratory performs research on applied climatological issues, such as the impact of extreme weather on human health, the effects of climate change upon organisms, and the development of weather warning systems to lessen the impact of extreme heat on society. The lab is led by Dr. Laurence S. Kalkstein.
Synoptic climatology is a holistic approach to evaluate weather and climate. Synoptic climatologists attempt to characterize an entire weather situation, in the form of air masses, that exist in a given area at a given time to gain a better understanding of how the atmospheric environment affects a wide range of organisms.
Some recent research that the Lab has undertaken includes the development of heat/health warning systems around the world, which notify local weather service offices and stakeholders when the weather is dangerous enough to cause negative health outcomes. A second research direction is the determination of air mass changes attributed to climate change; we’ve noted that, in many areas, both the frequency and heat intensity of the hottest air masses is increasing in summer. Our most recent research involves “Cool Cities Solutions”, which attempts to determine how we can modify our urban environment to make it cooler and ultimately save lives during hot weather. This has led to a number of interdisciplinary collaborations with our Lab and non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private enterprise to determine if reflective shingles on roofs, films on windows, and increasing vegetation can make a city significantly cooler. One of these collaborations, the Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative, has been working on a federal contract to determine how the most heat-vulnerable neighborhoods in Los Angeles can be made healthier by cooling the urban area using these environmental modifications.