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Nobel physics prize: First Nobel for climate science


The Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded to scientists from Japan, Germany and Italy for their work related to climate change.


Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology, GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Nobel Physics Prize for Climate related work
  2. Details about the work of Nobel laureates

About the Nobel Physics Prize for Climate related work

  • One half of the Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded to Syukuro Manabe (90) and Klaus Hasselmann (89) – for their work in “the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming”.
  • The second half of the prize was awarded to Giorgio Parisi (73) for “the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”
  • This is the first time climate scientists have been awarded the Physics Nobel.
  • The IPCC had won the Peace Nobel in 2007, an acknowledgement of its efforts in creating awareness for the fight against climate change.
  • The Chemistry Nobel was awarded to Paul Crutzen in 1995, for his work on the ozone layer – this is considered the only other time someone from atmospheric sciences has won this honour.

Details about the work of Nobel laureates

  • A research paper by Syukuro Manabe and Richard Wetherald in 1967 had – for the first time described the impact of carbon dioxide and water vapour on global warming. It was the first description of the processes of global warming.
  • Manabe and Wetherland also created a climate model for the first time. The sophisticated models that we run today, which are so crucial to climate science, trace their ancestry to that model created by Manabe.
  • Manabe was also instrumental in developing the first coupled model, in which ocean and atmospheric interactions are modelled together, in the 1970s.
  • Hasselmann is an oceanographer who is best known for his work on identifying specific signatures (“fingerprints” as the Nobel committee called them) in the climate phenomena that enabled scientists to ascertain whether these were caused by natural processes or human activities.
  • Hasselmann enabled the field of attribution science. In the 1990s, and even in the early 2000s, there was a lot of debate over the cause of global warming – whether these were being driven by human activities, or were part of natural variability. Even the scientific world was divided. Hasselmann’s work on identifying these fingerprints has all but closed that debate now.
  • Both Manabe and Hasselmann contributed to the first and third assessment reports of the IPCC while Hasselmann was an author in the second assessment report of IPCC as well.
  • Georgio Parisi’s work was in advancing the understanding of complex systems – which are systems with a very high degree of randomness (weather and climate phenomena are examples of complex systems).

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024