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Congratulations to the Winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics was recently awarded to three scientists whose work increased humanity’s understanding of complex systems: Drs. Syukuro Manabe of Princeton Universtiy, Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Giorgo Parisi of Sapienza University. The inclusion of Drs. Manabe and Hasselmann marks the first time that the Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to researchers whose primary work is within climate science.

Dr. Manabe’s work was foundational for developing the field of climate modelling. While at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in the 1960s, Manabe and his colleagues developed and used early climate models of varying complexity to explore a range of questions about the Earth’s climate system. His work from this time included a seminal paper on how the build up of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere affected the temperature of the Earth’s surface, troposphere and stratosphere. Among other important work from this time, Dr. Manabe used a coupled atmosphere-ocean model to examine questions about global hydrology and the transfer of heat in the climate system by the ocean. His research was wide-ranging across climate science and laid the groundwork for much of the research that followed.

As with Dr. Manabe’s work, Dr. Hasselmann’s research was also broad in its scope. In his first year at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology as its founding director, he presented one of the first “conceptual models” of Earth’s climate, a simple model that captures many of the characteristics of global climate change for easier study. He contributed significantly to a number of different areas within climate change, including the detection of climate change and the development and use of statistical methods for the prediction of patterns in the climate system.

Dr. Parisi’s research has touched a variety of fields, from condensed matter physics to climate change. In particular, he is known for his work in characterizing “spin glass,” disordered magnetic materials (generally metals) in which the microscopic magnetic properties of the particles comprising the materials are disordered in a manner that is analogous to the disorder of the positions of particles that make up glass. He has also contributed to the study of distributions of hadron particles (such as the protons and neutrons that make up atomic nuclei) in elementary particle physics and how phenomena that occur over short timescales in the climate system may affect long-term climate variations.

PCIC extends its heartfelt congratulations to all of the winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics, for their work in understanding the complex systems that make up our world.