Climate Impacts @ SU

Identifying, quantifying, and projecting the impacts of climate change on people

I'm an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at Syracuse University.

My research quantifies the impacts of climate change on people and the natural ecosystems they depend on, and works to better understand the physical mechanisms leading to the intensification of impactful weather and climate events in a warming world.

Interested in climate research?

Contact me for opportunities to join the group as an undergraduate, masters, or PhD student at Syracuse.

Peer-reviewed publications

    Submitted

  1. Coffel, E. D., Lesk, C., Winter, J. M., Osterberg, E. C., Mankin, J. S. Crop-climate feedbacks boost U.S. maize and soy yields. Submitted.

  2. Lesk, C., Coffel, E. D., Winter, J. M., Ray, D., Zscheischler, J., Seneviratne, S., Horton, R. M. The hidden signature of temperature-moisture couplings in the heat sensitivity of global crops. Submitted.

  3. Coffel, E. D., Mankin, J. S. Thermal power generation is disadvantaged in a warming world. Under review.

  4. Teitelbaum, C., Coffel, E. D., Foster, J., Frair, J., Hinton, J., Horton, R. M., Kramer, D., Lesk, C., Raymond, C., Sirn, A., Wattles, D., Zeller, K., Morelli, T. L. (contributing authors listed alphabetically). Can behavioral adaptations to climate maintain a species' distribution? Revising.

  5. Kaufman, J., Vicedo-Cabrera, A. M., Tam, V., Song, L., Coffel, E. D., Tasian, G. The Impact of Climate Change on Kidney Stone Presentations in South Carolina. Submitted.

  6. Published

  7. Barnston, A. G., Lyon, B., Coffel, E. D., Horton, R. M. (2020). Daily Autocorrelation and Mean Temperature/Moisture Rise as Determining Factors for Future Heatwave Patterns in the U.S. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

  8. Lesk, C, Coffel, E. D., Horton, R. M. (2020). Sensitivity of maize yields to sub-seasonal rainfall distribution and extremes in the United States. Nature Climate Change. [pdf]

    - see media coverage at The Earth Institute, and see commentary at Nature Climate Change

  9. Lyon, B., Barnston, A. G., Coffel, E. D., Horton, R. M. (2019). Projected increase in the spatial extent of contiguous U.S. summer heat waves and associated attributes. Environmental Research Letters. [pdf]

  10. Coffel, E. D., Keith, B., Lesk, C., Horton, R. M., Bower, E., Lee, J., Mankin, J. S. (2019). Future hot and dry years worsen Nile Basin water scarcity despite projected precipitation increases. Earth's Future. [pdf]

    - see media coverage at The New York Times, AGU, Phys.org, and see our associated article in The Conversation

  11. Coffel, E. D., Horton, R. M., Winter, J. M., Mankin, J. S. (2019). Nonlinear increases in extreme temperatures paradoxically dampen extreme humid-heat increases. Environmental Research Letters. [pdf]

  12. Coffel, E. D., Horton, R. M., De Sherbinin, A. (2017). Rapid rise in heat stress exposure during the 21st century. Environmental Research Letters. [pdf]

    - see media coverage at National Geographic, Climate Central, Earth Magazine, and see our associated op-ed in The New York Times

  13. Coffel, E. D., Thompson, T. R., Horton, R. M. (2017). The impacts of rising temperatures on aircraft takeoff performance. Climatic Change Letters. [pdf]

    - see media coverage at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The BBC, Inside Climate News, Climate Central, Travel Weekly, and see our associated article in The Conversation

  14. Lesk, C., Coffel, E. D., D'Amato, A. W., Dodds, K., Horton, R. M. (2017). Threats to North American forests from southern pine beetle with warming winters. Nature Climate Change. [pdf]

    - see media coverage at The New York Times, Reuters, Inside Climate News, and The Earth Institute

  15. Horton, R. M., Mankin, J. S., Lesk, C., Coffel, E. D., Raymond, C. (2016). A Review of Recent Advances in Research on Extreme Heat Events. Current Climate Change Reports. [pdf]

  16. Horton, R. M., Coffel, E. D., Winter, J. M., Bader, D. A. (2015). Projected changes in extreme temperature events based on the NARCCAP model suite. Geophysical Research Letters. [pdf]

  17. Coffel, E. D., Horton, R. M. (2015). Climate change and the impact of extreme temperatures on aviation. AMS Weather, Climate, and Society. [pdf]

Published book chapters

  • Coffel, E. D., Sherbinin, A. de, Horton, R. M., Lane, K., Kienberger, S., Wilhelmi, O. (2018). "The Science of Adaptation to Extreme Heat". Resilience: The Science of Adaptation to Climate Change. Eds. Frank, T., Zommers, Z. Elsevier.

Other publications

Research

We use climate observations and climate model simulations to understand how impactful climate extremes are changing and why, and what these changes mean for the human systems and natural environments that people depend on.

Heat stress

How will climate change affect the frequency, intensity, and duration of heat extremes? What will these changes mean for the billions of people living in already-hot regions? Extreme temperatures are already the number one weather-related killer, and as these events become more common, their impacts will likely increase.

Heat stress in humans depends not only on the temperature but also on the humidity. We identify the most at-risk regions for heat stress, understand the dynamics that drive the most extreme events, and consider what adaptation strategies could be employed to reduce the impacts of heat. Our work has shown that in the coming decades, billions of people annually could be exposed to unprecedented heat stress, with millions potentially experiencing heat stress that approaches the limits of human tolerance if greenhouse gas emissions aren't substantially reduced.

Disrupted agriculture

Agriculture is highly dependent on a stable climate, and climate change is disrupting the weather patterns that farmers rely on. Our work examines how extreme climate events like heat waves and droughts may affect crops in the future, and how agriculture itself can modify the local climate.

For example: Agricultural risk is particularlly acute in the Upper Nile Basin, where hot droughts have contributed to crop failure, famine, and migration in recent decades. Our work has shown that while precipitation is projected to increase across the region, the risk of hot and dry conditions is also rising due to higher temperatures and more precipitation variability. On top of this increased risk of concurrently hot and dry conditions, population is rapidly rising across the Basin. As a result of this combination of climate and demographic change, water scarcity and the risk of crop failures are projected to rise, necessitating adaptation and preparation to avoid humanitarian crises.

Climate change and infrastructure

Existing infrastructure is designed to operate within historical climatic bounds, and as these bounds shift, the risk of disrupted infrastructure operations will grow. Our work answers critical questions concerning the climate change risks to aviation and the electrical grid, and assesses how we can improve infrastructure resilience to warming.

For example, aircraft takeoff performance is strongly dependent on temperature. As air temperature rises, air density declines, meaning that a wing produces less lift at a given speed. This requires that takeoff speeds be higher on hotter days; for a given airport and aircraft type, there is a threshold above which the airplane cannot takeoff at its maximum takeoff weight and must be weight restricted. We have shown that as temperatures warm, more frequent weight restrictions may result in significant economic cost to the aviation industry.