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Three Pioneers in Climate Science Win Nobel Prize in Physics 2021

by Olivia Lai Europe Oct 6th 20213 mins
Three Pioneers in Climate Science Win Nobel Prize in Physics 2021

This year’s Nobel physics laureates are three scientists who led groundbreaking climate science research in understanding Earth’s complex systems and climate predictions. 

What is Happening?

Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi were announced as the winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday, October 5, for their work and contributions that led to the understanding of complex physical systems including the Earth’s climate

The research done by Japanese-born Manabe of Princeton University in the US and Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany during the 1960s and 1970s helped pioneer computer modelling of the Earth’s climate, which led to one of the first reliable predictions of the impacts of global warming. Their work has also been crucial in how the world needed to act in response to rising greenhouse gas emissions and rapid temperature rises. 

The third recipient of the prize, Parisi of Sapienza University of Rome, developed further research on physical systems, and discovered during the 1980s hidden patterns behind the disorder and fluctuations within climate systems. His groundbreaking work spanned from the ice ages to the current COVID-19 pandemic, and can be applied to aspects of neuroscience, machine learning and starling flight formations.

“The discoveries being recognised this year demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a rigorous analysis of observations,” said Thors Hans Hansson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

This year’s Nobel laureates in physics were announced during a news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The winners will share the prize money of 10 million krona, in which one half goes to Manabe and Hasselmann, while Parisi will receive the other half.

You might also like: In Conversation With Data Scientist Ashley Bang on Climate Modelling and Driving Policy Change

The recognition in climate science arrives just less than a month’s away from the UN climate change summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Following the prize announcement, Parisi spoke at a press conference in Stockholm urging world leaders to take action immediately. 

“It’s clear for future generations that we have to act now,” he said. “It’s very urgent that we take very strong decisions and move at a very strong pace.” 

“There are some details we still have to understand but the strength of climate change is clear,” Parisi added. “When more energy is in the atmosphere, that increases the chance of extreme [weather] events very strongly.”

The Nobel prizes were created in accordance to the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel. The awards have taken place since 1901 and are given out in five separate fields: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. A day prior to the physics prize announcement, two US scientists were awarded the prize of medicine for their discoveries on receptors in the skin that sense temperature and touch, while the other categories will be shortly be announced in the following week. 

Featured image by: Flickr


About the Author

Olivia Lai

Olivia is a journalist and editor based in Hong Kong with previous experience covering politics, art and culture. She is passionate about wildlife and ocean conservation, with a keen interest in climate diplomacy. She’s also a graduate of University of Edinburgh in International Relations with a Master’s degree from The University of Hong Kong in Journalism. Olivia was the former Managing Editor at Earth.Org.

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