The impact of climate on human health cannot be underestimated.
The Synoptic Climatology Laboratory performs research on applied climatological issues, such as the impact of extreme weather on human health, the effects of climate 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 organisms and a wide range of human activities.
Some recent research that the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory has undertaken includes the development of heat/health warning systems around the world, which notify local weather service offices, policymakers, and stakeholders when the weather is dangerous enough to cause negative health outcomes. Recently, this work has expanded to the actual ranking of heat waves based upon predicted health outcomes to better specify the proper interventions that should be taken by officials. 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 are increasing in summer. We are also deeply involved in research relating to “Cool Cities Solutions”, which attempts to determine how we can modify our urban environment to make it cooler, less polluted, 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 and pollution-absorbing shingles on roofs, films on windows, and increasing vegetation can make a city significantly cooler. Our Lab helped in the co-founding of the Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative, which has obtained government contracts to determine how the most heat-vulnerable neighborhoods in Los Angeles can be made healthier by cooling the urban area using these environmental modifications.
Thus, the Lab's overall goal is to understand weather-health relationships, quantify these relationships, and determine how we can save lives through the use of various innovative actions and activities.