STOCKHOLM (AP) – Three scientists on Tuesday won the Nobel Prize in Physics for work that brought order to apparent disorder, helping to explain and predict complex forces in nature, including expanding our understanding of change climate.
Syukuro Manabe from Japan and Klaus Hasselmann from Germany have been cited for their work in developing models for predicting the Earth’s climate and for “reliably predicting global warming”. The second half of the prize went to Giorgio Parisi from Italy for explaining the disorder in physical systems, ranging from those as small as the interior of atoms to the size of a planet.
Hasselmann told The Associated Press that he “would rather not have global warming and no Nobel Prize.”
Manabe said it was “1,000 times” easier to understand the physics behind climate change than to get the world to do something about it. He said the intricacies of politics and society are much more difficult to grasp than the complexities of carbon dioxide interacting with the atmosphere, which then changes conditions in the ocean and on land, which in turn changes to new air in a constant cycle.
He called climate change a “major crisis”.
The award comes less than four weeks before the start of high-level climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders will be called on to step up commitments to curb global warming.
The Nobel Prize-winning scientists used their moment in the spotlight to urge action.
“It is very urgent that we take very strong decisions and move forward at a very sustained pace” in the fight against global warming, said Parisi. He made the call even though his share of the prize was for work in a field other than physics.
The three scientists work on what are called “complex systems”, of which climate is just one example. But the award went to two opposing fields of study in many ways, though they share the goal of making sense of what seems random and chaotic so that it can be predicted.
Much of Parisi’s research focuses on subatomic particles, predicting how and why they move in seemingly chaotic ways, and is somewhat esoteric, while Manabe and Hasselmann’s work focuses on the large-scale global forces that shape our daily life.
The judges said Manabe, 90, and Hasselmann, 89, “laid the foundation for our knowledge of Earth’s climate and how human actions influence it.”
Beginning in the 1960s, Manabe, now based at Princeton University, created the first climate models that predicted what would happen when carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere.
For decades, scientists have shown that carbon dioxide traps heat, but Manabe’s work has shed some light on this. This allowed scientists to show how much and how quickly climate change will get worse, depending on how much carbon pollution is released.
Manabe is such a pioneer that other climatologists have called his 1967 article with the late Richard Wetherald “the most influential climate article of all time,” said Gavin Schmidt, chief climate modeler at NASA . Manabe’s colleague at Princeton, Tom Delworth, called Manabe “the Michael Jordan of the climate”.
“Suki paved the way for climate science today, not only the tool but also how to use it,” said Gabriel Vecchi, another climatologist at Princeton. “I can’t count the times I thought I found something new, and it’s in one of his papers.”
Manabe’s models from 50 years ago “accurately predicted the warming that actually occurred over the following decades,” said climatologist Zeke Hausfather of the Breakthrough Institute. Manabe’s work serves “as a warning to all of us that we should take their projections of a much hotter future if we continue to emit carbon dioxide very seriously.”
“I never imagined that this thing I would start to study would have such a huge consequence,” Manabe said at a press conference in Princeton. “I was doing it just out of curiosity.”
About a decade after Manabe’s early work, Hasselmann, of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, helped explain why climate models can be reliable despite the seemingly chaotic nature of the weather. He also developed ways to look for specific signs of human influence on the climate.
Meanwhile, Parisi, of the Sapienza University in Rome, “built a deep physical and mathematical model” that has enabled us to understand complex systems in fields as different as mathematics, biology, neuroscience and learning. Automatique.
His work originally focused on what is known as spin glass, a type of metal alloy whose behavior has long baffled scientists. Parisi, 73, discovered hidden patterns that explained his way of acting, creating theories that could be applied to other areas of research as well.
All three physicists used complex mathematics to explain and predict what appeared to be chaotic forces of nature. This is called modeling.
“Physically-based climate models have predicted the magnitude and rate of global warming, including some of the consequences such as rising seas, increasing extreme precipitation, and stronger hurricanes, decades before they did. ‘they cannot be observed,’ said the German climatologist and modeler. Stefan Rahmstorf. He called Hasselmann and Manabe pioneers in this field.
When climatologists from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former US Vice President Al Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, some who deny global warming called it a gesture Politics. Perhaps anticipating the controversy, members of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prize, pointed out that Tuesday’s was a science prize.
“What we are saying is that climate modeling is firmly based on physical theory and well-known physics,” Swedish physicist Thors Hans Hansson said during the announcement.
For a scientist who negotiates predictions, Hasselmann said the price had caught him off guard.
“I was quite surprised when they called,” he said. “I mean, it’s something I did many years ago.”
But Parisi said: “I knew there was a significant possibility” of winning.
The award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $ 1.14 million). The money comes from a bequest left by the creator of the prize, the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
On Monday, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries on how the human body perceives temperature and touch it.
Over the next few days, prizes will be awarded in the fields of chemistry, literature, peace and economics.
Borenstein reported from Kensington, Maryland. Associated Press journalists Frank Jordans and Kerstin Sopke in Berlin, Ted Shaffrey in Princeton, New Jersey, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.
Read more stories about past and present Nobel Prizes at https://www.apnews.com/NobelPrizes.