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Nobels

3 scientists awarded Nobel Prize in Physics for foundational methods of quantifying climate change

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics early Tuesday to three physicists — Syukuro Manabe of Japan, Klaus Hasselmann of German, and Giorgio Parisi of Italy — for "groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems" that laid the foundation for modern climate science. 

Manabe and Hasselmann, who jointly "laid the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth's climate and how humanity influences it," will split one half of the $1.14 million prize, the Nobel committee said, while Parisi was awarded the other half for "his revolutionary contributions to the theory of disordered materials and random processes."

Starting in the 1960s, Manabe, 90, showed how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere led to higher surface temperatures on the ground and led the development of physical models of the Earth's climate. "His work laid the foundation for the development of current climate models," the Nobel committee said. About a decade later, Hasselmann, 89, "created a model that links together weather and climate," and developed methods to identify specific marks of human activity influencing the climate, proving "that the increased temperature in the atmosphere is due to human emissions of carbon dioxide." 

Parisi's research in the early 1980s on hidden patterns in disordered complex materials made 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," the Nobel committee said.

Parisi, 73, responded to his Nobel award by urging the world to "take very strong decisions and move at a very strong pace" to tackle climate change, adding, "It's clear for future generations that we have to act now."