Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Climate change research takes center stage in Nobel Prize for physics

October 9, 2021

Syukuro Manabe, 90, and Klaus Hasselmann, 89, were honoured for their contributions to “physical modelling of Earth’s climate, measuring variability, and accurately forecasting global warming.”

“The Earth’s climate is a complex system that is critical to humanity. Increased quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to higher temperatures at the Earth’s surface, according to Syukuro Manabe. He was the first to investigate the interplay between radiation balance and vertical air mass movement in the 1960s, and he spearheaded the development of physical models of the Earth’s climate. His work set the groundwork for the current generation of climate models.

“About 10 years later, Klaus Hasselmann developed a model that connects weather and climate, answering the question of how climate models can be accurate in the face of changing and unpredictable weather.” He also devised ways for recognising precise indications, or fingerprints, that both natural and human-caused climate change leave behind. His methods have been used to demonstrate that the increased temperature in the atmosphere is caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. “Giorgio Parisi identified hidden patterns in chaotic complex materials in the early 1980s. His contributions to the theory of complex systems are among the most significant. They enable us to comprehend and characterise a wide range of seemingly random materials and occurrences, not only in physics but also in fields as diverse as mathematics, biology, neurology, and machine learning.”

Manabe and Hasselmann will each earn half of the reward, while Parisi will receive the other half. Giorgio Parisi was honoured for “discovering the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary sizes,” with applications in glasses, random lasers, and optimization challenges. “They laid the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate and how humans influences it,” the panel stated of Manabe and Hasselmann. The prize includes a gold medal and a cash prize of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.14 million). The award money originates from a legacy left by Alfred Nobel, the prize’s originator, who died in 1895.