Peter Kalmus (climate scientist)

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Peter Kalmus
Born (1974-05-09) May 9, 1974 (age 48)
EducationHarvard University (BS)
Columbia University (PhD)
AwardsNASA Early Career Achievement Medal, Transition US Walk the Talk Award
Scientific career
FieldsClimate science, ecological forecasting, science communication
InstitutionsJet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, University of California, Los Angeles

Peter Kalmus (born May 9, 1974) is an American scientist and writer based in Altadena, California. He is a data scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an associate project scientist at UCLA's Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering. In addition to his scientific work, he is the author of the book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.[1][2] A documentary by the same title complements the book.[3] In addition to authoring articles about climate change, he is the founder of the website[4] and co-founder of the app, Earth Hero: Climate Change.

Education and early career[edit]

Kalmus attended Harvard University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in physics in 1997.[5] At Harvard, he used Fourier-transform spectrometry to discover and categorize the quantum-mechanical rotational spectra of several cyanopolyynes which were subsequently found in interstellar clouds.[6] He then taught high school physics in Massachusetts and wrote software in New York City.[5] In 2004 he enrolled in graduate school at Columbia University and received his PhD in physics in 2008.[5] His PhD work involved searching for gravitational waves as a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (thesis: "Gravitational Waves Associated with Soft Gamma Repeater Flares").[7] He continued his work with LIGO as a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, leading major full-collaboration searches for gravitational waves from magnetars,[8][9][10] gamma ray bursts[11] and supernovae[12] and contributing to the precise calibration of the world's gravitational wave observatories.[13]


After focusing on LIGO related work for several years, Kalmus's focus transitioned into earth and climate science. Kalmus's recent research centers on cloud physics, specifically improving basic understanding of marine stratocumulus clouds[14] and severe convective weather such as tornadoes[15] with the goal of improving projections of how these phenomena will change as the planet heats, using remote sensing data, in situ data, and models. Marine stratocumulus clouds reflect incoming sunlight, cooling the planet, and are difficult to model accurately in climate models; this makes them a major source of uncertainty in climate projections.[14]

A common thread in his research is improving the utility of satellite observations of the Earth. His work on severe weather unlocks the potential of polar orbiting satellites to observe rapidly changing convective environments by using air parcel trajectory modeling to span the temporal gap between satellite overpass and convective initiation.[15] He has used in situ data from a ship-based campaign to bias-correct the CloudSat warm rain retrieval. He also uses in situ data to validate retrievals from the AIRS instrument on the Aqua (satellite).[16]

Recently, Kalmus has begun to work in the nascent field of ecological forecasting. He is the principal investigator on a NASA grant to study the projected future of the world's coral reefs with greater accuracy and higher resolution.[17] Coral reefs are rapidly succumbing to ocean heat waves and ocean acidification.[18]

He has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles in physics and Earth science, with a majority having come from his previous participation in the LIGO Collaboration.[19]

Activism and public engagement[edit]

Kalmus is an science communicator whose efforts center on shifting culture away from fossil fuel acceptability. He tweets as @ClimateHuman and as of April 2022 is the most-followed climate scientist on Twitter.[20] He focuses in particular on encouraging the Earth science and other academic communities to speak out with greater urgency on the need for climate action.[21]

He has been featured in many media outlets, including Mother Jones,[22] PRI's The World,[23] CBC Radio,[24] Deutsche Welle,[25] BuzzFeed,[26] The Intercept,[27] and Quartz,[28] and most often speaks to the need for an immediate and massive climate mobilization and how individuals can "vote" for this mobilization through their actions, via both activism and emissions reduction. He frequently speaks to the need for a carbon fee and dividend policy as part of the mobilization, in which fossil fuel becomes increasingly costly as the carbon fee rises every year and 100% of the net revenue is returned equitably to the people, making the policy fiscally progressive.

Kalmus lives on approximately one-tenth the fossil fuel of the average American.[29] He says this has made his life more satisfying and meaningful. In 2010, Kalmus realized the flying in planes accounted for roughly 34 of his greenhouse gas emissions, and he has not flown on a plane since 2012.[30] Kalmus believes that anyone can contribute to cultural shift by conspicuously modeling the change that needs to happen. He has stated that by "walking the talk" his advocacy has become more effective.[31]

Kalmus is a columnist and regular contributor at YES! magazine.[32] His writing has also appeared in The Guardian,[33] Eos, The Washington Post, and Grist.

On September 14, 2019, Kalmus tweeted "Never give up" and referenced his latest article, "How to live with the climate crisis without becoming a nihilist".[34][35]

Kalmus has been associated with the Movement for a People's Party, a progressive organization positioned as an alternative to the Democratic or Republican Party. After the first presidential debate of the 2020 election, Kalmus participated in a four-person response to the debate.[36]

In late‑2021, Kalmus likened his own experiences pushing for greater recognition of the climate problem with those of the two fictional astronomers portrayed in the comedy film Don't Look Up. He also compares absurd events in that film with a series of equally absurd and elusory events in our own world.[37]

JP Morgan Chase building arrest[edit]

On April 6, 2022, Kalmus was arrested, along with a physicist, an engineer and a science teacher,[38] for chaining himself to the door of the JP Morgan Chase building in Los Angeles, protesting the bank's investments in new fossil fuel projects.[39] Writing in The Guardian in April 2022, Kalmus advocated civil disobedience following the release of the final IPCC Working Group III report. In the article, Kalmus says "It's now the eleventh hour and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity. [...] But I'll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse".[39]

Flying Less movement[edit]

Kalmus is the founder of the website and a leading voice in the #FlyingLess movement.[40] He is pushing for the American Geophysical Union to support earth scientists who choose to fly less out of climate concerns, with remote participation options at conferences.[41]

School strike for climate[edit]

Kalmus was a lead organizer on two letters written in support of school striking youth, one from US Earth scientists[42] and one from international scholars.[43] His two sons have been regularly school striking on Fridays since 2018 as part of the Fridays for Future movement.[44]

Earth Hero[edit]

To help users' track carbon emissions, Kalmus co-founded the smart phone app Earth Hero to help users reduce their emissions, shift the culture with their reductions, and then helps them engage in other forms of climate activism such as protest and civil disobedience.[45]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Kalmus has won numerous awards both for his science and activism. He received the NASA Early Career Achievement Medal and three Jet Propulsion Laboratory Voyager Awards for his work in Earth science.[5] He is also a recipient of the inaugural Transition US Walking the Talk award.[46] He is a 2018 "Grist 50" fellow, one of the ten 2018 fellows classified as "Visionaries".[47]

His book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution won an IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year Award,[48] the Nautilus Book Award[citation needed], and the Foreword Indies Book Award[citation needed].


  1. ^ Kalmus, Peter (10 July 2017). Being the change: live well and spark a climate revolution. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers. ISBN 978-0-86571-853-1. Paperback edition.
  2. ^ Sharwood, Anthony (2017-06-27). "Why This NASA Jet Lab Scientist Will Never Go Near A Jet Again". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  3. ^ Being the Change: A New Kind of Climate Documentary (2018) - IMDb, retrieved 2019-09-15
  4. ^ "No Fly Climate Sci". Earth scientists flying less. Retrieved 2021-12-30. Website.
  5. ^ a b c d "Peter Kalmus CV 2018" (PDF).
  6. ^ Thaddeus, P.; Gottlieb, C. A.; Kalmus, P.; McCarthy, M. C.; Travers, M. J. (1996-11-20). "Laboratory Detection of the Cyanopolyyne HC13N". The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 472 (1): L61. Bibcode:1996ApJ...472L..61T. doi:10.1086/310359. ISSN 1538-4357.
  7. ^ Kalmus, Peter (2009-04-28). "Search for Gravitational Wave Bursts from Soft Gamma Repeaters". arXiv:0904.4394. Bibcode:2009PhDT.......272K. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ LIGO Scientific Collaboration; Abbott, B.; Abbott, R.; Adhikari, R.; Ajith, P.; Allen, B.; Allen, G.; Amin, R.; Anderson, S. B. (2008-11-21). "Search for Gravitational-Wave Bursts from Soft Gamma Repeaters". Physical Review Letters. 101 (21): 211102. arXiv:0808.2050. Bibcode:2008PhRvL.101u1102A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.211102. PMID 19113401. S2CID 20300387.
  9. ^ Abbott, B. P.; Abbott, R.; Adhikari, R.; Ajith, P.; Allen, B.; Allen, G.; Amin, R. S.; Anderson, S. B.; Anderson, W. G. (July 2009). "Stacked Search for Gravitational Waves from the 2006 SGR 1900$\mathplus$14 STORM" (PDF). The Astrophysical Journal. 701 (2): L68–L74. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/701/2/L68. hdl:1721.1/95904. ISSN 1538-4357.
  10. ^ Abadie, J.; Abbott, B. P.; Abbott, R.; Abernathy, M.; Accadia, T.; Acernese, F.; Adams, C.; Adhikari, R.; Affeldt, C. (June 2011). "Search for Gravitational Wave Bursts from Six Magnetars". The Astrophysical Journal. 734 (2): L35. arXiv:1011.4079. Bibcode:2011ApJ...734L..35A. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/734/2/L35. ISSN 2041-8205. S2CID 119120374.
  11. ^ Abadie, J.; Abbott, B. P.; Abbott, T. D.; Abbott, R.; Abernathy, M.; Adams, C.; Adhikari, R.; Affeldt, C.; Ajith, P. (July 2012). "Implications for the Origin of GRB 051103 from Ligo Observations". The Astrophysical Journal. 755 (1): 2. arXiv:1201.4413. Bibcode:2012ApJ...755....2A. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/755/1/2. ISSN 0004-637X. S2CID 15494223.
  12. ^ LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration; Abbott, B. P.; Abbott, R.; Abbott, T. D.; Abernathy, M. R.; Acernese, F.; Ackley, K.; Adams, C.; Adams, T. (2016-11-15). "First targeted search for gravitational-wave bursts from core-collapse supernovae in data of first-generation laser interferometer detectors". Physical Review D. 94 (10): 102001. arXiv:1605.01785. Bibcode:2016PhRvD..94j2001A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.94.102001. S2CID 217480132.
  13. ^ Goetz, E; Kalmus, P; Erickson, S; Savage, R L; Gonzalez, G; Kawabe, K; Landry, M; Marka, S; O'Reilly, B (2009-11-25). "Precise calibration of LIGO test mass actuators using photon radiation pressure". Classical and Quantum Gravity. 26 (24): 245011. arXiv:0910.5591. Bibcode:2009CQGra..26x5011G. doi:10.1088/0264-9381/26/24/245011. ISSN 0264-9381. S2CID 11311944.
  14. ^ a b Kalmus, Peter; Lebsock, Matthew; Teixeira, João (December 2014). "Observational Boundary Layer Energy and Water Budgets of the Stratocumulus-to-Cumulus Transition". Journal of Climate. 27 (24): 9155–9170. Bibcode:2014JCli...27.9155K. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00242.1. ISSN 0894-8755.
  15. ^ a b Kalmus, Peter; Kahn, Brian H.; Freeman, Sean W.; van den Heever, Susan C. (May 2019). "Trajectory-Enhanced AIRS Observations of Environmental Factors Driving Severe Convective Storms". Monthly Weather Review. 147 (5): 1633–1653. Bibcode:2019MWRv..147.1633K. doi:10.1175/MWR-D-18-0055.1. ISSN 0027-0644.
  16. ^ Kalmus, Peter; Sun Wong; Teixeira, Joao (July 2017). "The Pacific Subtropical Cloud Transition: A MAGIC Assessment of AIRS and ECMWF Thermodynamic Structure". IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters. 12 (7): 1586–1590. doi:10.1109/LGRS.2015.2413771. ISSN 1545-598X. S2CID 8487808.
  17. ^ "Biological Diversity & Ecological Forecasting". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  18. ^ "No safe haven for coral from the combined impacts of warming and ocean acidification | NOAA". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  19. ^ "Peter Kalmus' Publons profile". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  20. ^ "New most followed climate scientist". Retrieved 2022-04-19.
  21. ^ Kalmus, Peter. "To My Fellow Climate Scientists: Be Human, Be Brave, Speak Truth". Yes! Magazine.
  22. ^ "What happens when you can see disaster unfolding, and nobody listens?". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  23. ^ "How do we process doom-and-gloom climate news? How should we?". Public Radio International. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  24. ^ "Climate scientist calls out 25,000 colleagues for flying to conference". CBC Radio. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  25. ^ "German state education minister tells students to protest on their own time | DW | 16.02.2019". DW.COM. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  26. ^ "These Scientists Are Radically Changing How They Live To Cope With Climate Change". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  27. ^ Aronoff, Kate (2019-07-05). "The PowerPoint That Got a Climate Scientist Disinvited From a Shell Conference". The Intercept. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  28. ^ Neimark, Jill. "Stop screaming at us about climate change–and start inspiring us to take action". Quartz. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  29. ^ Kalmus, Peter (2017). Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution. New Society. p. 144.
  30. ^ Kalmus, Peter. "How Far Can We Get Without Flying?". Yes! Magazine.
  31. ^ "What's the most effective way to talk about climate change?". 2018-07-15. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  32. ^ "Peter Kalmus". YES! Magazine. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  33. ^ Kalmus, Peter (2017-12-11). "Why did climate scientists emit 30,000 tonnes of CO2 this weekend? | Peter Kalmus". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  34. ^ "Opinion: How to live with the climate crisis without becoming a nihilist". Los Angeles Times. 2019-09-15. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  35. ^ "Twitter". Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  36. ^ "Movement For A People's Party - A Party For Us". The People's Party. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  37. ^ Kalmus, Peter (29 December 2021). "I'm a climate scientist. Don't Look Up captures the madness I see every day". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  38. ^ "Climate Scientists Chained Themselves To A Downtown Bank's Doors In An Act Of Peaceful Protest. Police In Riot Gear Shut It Down". LAist. 2022-04-07. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  39. ^ a b Kalmus, Peter (6 April 2022). "Climate scientists are desperate: we're crying, begging and getting arrested". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  40. ^ Sci, No Fly Climate. "Welcome". Earth scientists flying less. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  41. ^ "AGU Should Support Its Members Who Fly Less". Eos. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  42. ^ Lemonick, Michael D. "An Open Letter Endorsing the Global School Strike for Climate". Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  43. ^ Hagedorn, Gregor; Kalmus, Peter; Mann, Michael; Vicca, Sara; Van den Berge, Joke; van Ypersele, Jean-Pascal; Bourg, Dominique; Rotmans, Jan; Kaaronen, Roope; Rahmstorf, Stefan; Kromp-Kolb, Helga; Kirchengast, Gottfried; Knutti, Reto; Seneviratne, Sonia I; Thalmann, Philippe; Cretney, Raven; Green, Alison; Anderson, Kevin; Hedberg, Martin; Nilsson, Douglas; Kuttner, Amita; Hayhoe, Katharine (12 April 2019). "Concerns of young protesters are justified". Science. 364 (6436): 139–140. doi:10.1126/science.aax3807. ISSN 0036-8075. Retrieved 2021-11-05. closed access
  44. ^ "Youth Call for Action with Climate Strikes". EosS. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  45. ^ "Earth Hero". Earth Hero. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  46. ^ "Transition US Awards Ceremony Honors Movement Leaders | Transition US". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  47. ^ "Meet the people fixing your world". Grist. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  48. ^ "Outstanding". Retrieved 2018-12-06.