On Tuesday, three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work to find order in apparent disorder. This helped them predict and explain complex forces of nature, which includes our understanding of climate change.
Syukuro Hasselmann, originally from Japan and Klaus Hasselmann from Germany were cited in recognition of their work in “the mathematical modeling of Earth’s climate and quantifying variability, reliably predicting global heating.” The second prize was awarded to Giorgio Parisi, an Italian for explaining disorder in physical systems ranging from the smallest to the largest atoms to the most large.
Hasselmann stated to The Associated Press that he would prefer no global warming or a Nobel Prize in the face of climate change.
Manabe, who was speaking across the Atlantic at the time, said in an interview that it was much easier to figure out the physics of climate change than to get the world to act about it.
The three scientists are all involved in complex systems research, of which climate is one example. The prize will go to two different fields of study, which are in many ways opposite but share the goal to make sense of chaos and randomness in a way that can be predicted.
Parisi’s work is primarily focused on subatomic particles. It is more academic and esoteric than the work of Manabe or Hasselmann, which is about larger-scale global forces that affect our daily lives.
Judges Manabe, 90, said that Hasselmann,89, had “laid the foundation for our knowledge about the Earth’s climate, and how human actions affect it.”
Manabe, who is now based at Princeton University, New Jersey, started the 1960s by creating the first climate models. These models predicted what would happen to the planet as carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere. Although scientists have known for decades that carbon dioxide traps heat heat, Manabe’s research added detail and prediction to that general knowledge. Scientists were able to show how climate change would worsen depending on the amount of carbon pollution emitted.
A decade later, Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany helped to explain why climate models are reliable, despite the chaotic nature of weather. He also devised methods to identify specific signs of human influence on climate.
Hasselmann stated that the problem with climate changes is that they occur on such a large scale that people have difficulty understanding them.
Hasselman stated that people tend to ignore the problem until it is too late.
Parisi, from Sapienza University in Rome, also “built a deep mathematical and physical model” that allowed him to understand complex systems across many fields, including biology, neuroscience, and machine learning.
His initial focus was on spin glass, a type a metal alloy where the atoms are placed in such a way that the material’s magnetic properties change in seemingly random ways that puzzle scientists. Parisi, now 73, was able discover hidden patterns to explain this behavior. These theories could also be applied to other areas of research.
All three physicists used complicated mathematics to predict and explain what appeared chaotic forces of nature through computer simulations called modeling. Scientists have gained such a firm understanding of these forces through modeling that they can predict the weather up to a week in advance and forecast climate changes for decades.
Jim Gates, a Brown University physicist, said that “Physics is about modeling, finding mathematical stories and their equations, which accurately reflect nature’s workings, and allows humanity, as its survival instinct,”.
While modeling is often ridiculed by non-scientists, it has been crucial to combating climate change.
“Physics-based climate modeling made it possible to forecast the pace and extent of global warming. This included the effects like rising sea levels and increased extreme rain events. These were all predicted decades before any observations could be made. Klaus Hasselmann, Suki Manabe were the pioneers in this field and were personal role models to me,” stated Stefan Rahmstorf, German climate scientist and modeler.
Rahmstorf stated, “We are now witnessing how they early predictions are coming to pass one after another.”
Some who denied global warming dismissed the Nobel Peace Prize 2007 as a political award when Al Gore, a former U.S. Vice-President, and climate scientists were awarded it. Members of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, which gives the Nobel, stressed that it was a science prize, perhaps anticipating controversy.
It’s a prize for physics. “What we’re saying is that climate modeling is solidly based upon physical theory and well-known physics,” Thors Hans Hansson, a Swedish physicist, said at the announcement.
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Parisi’s climate work was not his primary focus, but he appealed to the public to act on the matter after the announcement.
He stated that it was urgent to take strong decisions and move quickly in order to combat global warming.
Parisi answered the question “I knew there was an un-negligible chance” when asked if he expected to win the prize.
Hasselmann on the other hand, expressed his bewilderment.
He told the Swedish news agency TT that he did not understand but that it felt fantastic.
He said, “I don’t think I’ve done too much research in life. But I have had a lot fun doing it with some of my colleagues.” “It is sufficient for me that my research reveals that humans have affected the climate.”
Manabe’s hometown mayor hailed his victory.
Minoru Shinohara (mayor of Shikokuchuo) said, “I represent all city residents to offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Syukuro Maabe.” Manabe was born in the Shingu village of the city.
This prestigious award includes a gold medal, 10 million Swedish Kronor (more than $1.14 million) and a prestigious award. Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor, left the prize money in a bequest. He died in 1895.
The Nobel Committee awarded Monday’s prize in physiology/medicine to Ardem Patapoutian and David Julius of the United States for their research into temperature perception and touch.
In the days ahead, prizes will be presented for outstanding contributions in the areas of literature, chemistry, peace, and economics.