As concern grows about climate change and its impact on the planet, scientists at Northwestern’s Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy are asking and answering urgent questions. With support from the institute, Daniel E. Horton, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences, provides research insights crucial for shaping environmental policy.
In 2022 Horton and co-author Ryan Harp published a study documenting how rainfall events have increased in intensity across the contiguous U.S. Warmer air holds more moisture, so “when it rains now, it rains more,” Horton says. Using daily precipitation observations, the researchers found that precipitation over the past three decades was about 5% more intense on average compared with previous decades.
Horton, the principal investigator of Northwestern’s Climate Change Research Group, also has looked at the benefits and tradeoffs of moving toward electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. With Trienens Institute funding, he co-authored a 2020 study showing that the air quality, public health and climate benefits would be significant, especially if EVs were charged with emission-free energy sources.
“With this work, we hope to inform mitigation and adaptation policies and bring the predictive power of modern Earth system science to one of society’s most profound challenges,” Horton says.
Policymakers, the media and the science community are taking notice of Horton’s research. In 2023 he received the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation.