Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2021 for their pioneering contributions to our knowledge of complex physical processes, especially how humans affect the Earth’s climate.
The three winners, Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi, will divide the award. It was announced on Tuesday and was also worth 10 million Swedish kronor (£870,000).
One-half of the prize was jointly awarded to Manabe and Hasselmann. It was for their physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability, and reliably predicting global heating. The other half went to Parisi for his discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.
Manabe and Hasselmann shared half of the prize for their physical modeling of Earth’s climate. It was quantified variability and accurately predicted global warming. The other half went to Parisi for his work on the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems at all sizes, from the atomic to the planetary.
Complex systems are difficult to comprehend because of their randomness and disorder, but this year’s prize recognized new methods for defining and predicting their long-term behavior.
“While complex systems are difficult to deal with theoretically, they are all around us and affect our lives in many different ways, not least by the way they affect the character of our weather and climate,” said Paul Hardaker, chief executive of the Institute of Physics.
Manabe, a senior meteorologist at Princeton University, explained how rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere can result in rising temperatures at the Earth’s surface. Professor Hasselmann of Hamburg’s Max Planck Institute for Meteorology developed a separate model that linked weather and climate. He also devised methods for identifying specific signals imprinted in the climate by natural and human occurrences.
Parisi’s significant study centered on detecting hidden patterns in disordered complex materials known as spin glasses, allowing scientists to better comprehend and characterize a wide range of seemingly random materials and phenomena.
In his will from 1895, Alfred Nobel named physics as the first prize category, directing that his entire remaining fortune be used to grant “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have bestowed the greatest benefit to humankind.”
Prizes for physics and chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and the championship of peace are among the other awards.