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3 scientists win Nobel Prize in physics for work on complex systems, like climate

Nobel Physics
Posted at 8:03 AM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 08:06:33-04

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to three scientists from Japan, Germany and Italy, who will share the honor.

The organization announced Tuesday that one of half of the award is being given to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann “for the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.”

Meanwhile, officials say the other half is being awarded to Giorgio Parisi “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”

According to the organization, this year’s prize in physics is recognizing new methods for describing complex systems and predicting their long-term behavior.

Manabe demonstrated how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to increased temperatures at the surface of the Earth. In the 1960s, officials say he led the development of physical models of the Earth’s climate and was the first person to explore the interaction between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses. His work reportedly laid the foundation for the development of current climate models.

About 10 years later, the organization says Hasselmann created a model that links together weather and climate, answering the question of why climate models can be reliable despite weather being changeable and chaotic. He also developed methods for identifying specific signals or fingerprints that both natural phenomena and human activities imprint in the climate. His methods have been used to prove that the increased temperature in the atmosphere is due to human emissions of carbon dioxide.

As for Parisi, officials say the hidden patterns that he discovered in complex systems make it possible to understand and describe many different and apparently entirely random materials and phenomena, not only in physics but also in other, very different areas, such as mathematics, biology, neuroscience and machine learning.

Manabe is a senior meteorologist at Princeton University in the United States, Hasselmann is a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany, and Parisi is a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.