US-Japanese scientist Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann of Germany and Giorgio Parisi of Italy yesterday won the Nobel Physics Prize for climate models and the understanding of physical systems, the jury said.
The Nobel committee said it was sending a message with its prize announcement just weeks before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, as the rate of global warming sets off alarm bells around the world.
“The world leaders that haven’t got the message yet, I’m not sure they will get it because we are saying it. But ... what we are saying is that the modeling of climate is solidly based in physics theory,” Nobel Committee for Physics chair Thor Hans Hansson said.
Photo: AFP / Princeton University
Manabe, 90, and Hasselmann, 89, share one-half of the 10 million kronor (US$1.15 million) prize for their research on climate models, while Parisi, 73, won the other half for his work on the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems.
“Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann laid the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate and how humanity influences it,” the committee said.
“Giorgio Parisi is rewarded for his revolutionary contributions to the theory of disordered materials and random processes,” it added.
“The discoveries being recognized this year demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a rigorous analysis of observations,” Hansson said.
Manabe is affiliated with Princeton University in New Jersey, while Hasselmann is a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg.
Parisi, who also won the Wolf Prize in February, is a professor at Sapienza University of Rome.
Working in the 1960s, Manabe showed how levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere corresponded to increased Earth surface temperatures.
He was influential in developing the physical models of Earth’s climate and worked on how exactly the heat energy received by Earth from the sun radiates back into the atmosphere.
Hasselmann was credited for working out how climate models can remain reliable, despite sometimes chaotic variation in weather trends.
The committee praised his identification of climate “fingerprints” caused by natural and human activities and how much climate change can be contributed solely to human-caused emissions.
Parisi was honored for his work in the 1980s that the committee said was to be “among the most important contributions” to the theory of complex systems.
His work made it possible for physicists to understand apparently entirely random materials, with wide-ranging applications, including mathematics, biology and machine learning.
Linking Manabe and Hasselman’s work to Parisi’s, the Nobel Foundation said this year’s prize “recognizes new methods for describing complex systems and predicting their long-term behavior.”
“One complex system of vital importance to humankind is Earth’s climate,” it said.
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