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EGU news Previous EGU medallists awarded Nobel Prize for Physics!

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European Geosciences Union

Previous EGU medallists awarded Nobel Prize for Physics!

7 October 2021

In an announcement on Tuesday 5 October, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded two previous EGU medal winners, Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann, the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on climate modelling, alongside physical systems modeller Giorgio Parisi. Syukuro Manabe, who won the Milutin Milanković medal in 1998 and Klaus Hasselmann, who won the Vilhelm Bjerknes medal in 2002 (both presented by the European Geophysical Society before it merged with the European Union of Geoscience to form EGU), were awarded the Nobel Prize for “the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming”.

In the 1960’s Syukuro Manabe pioneered the development of physical climate models, and demonstrated the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and increased surface temperatures, laying the ground work for hundreds of climate modellers around the world. He was awarded the Milutin Milanković medal in 1998 specifically for his development of numerical models that coupled ocean and atmospheric models, to better predict global climate change.

“In 1998, Syukuro Manabe was awarded the Milutin Milanković medal, established by the Climate: Past, Present and Future Division, for his studies of climate change and development of prediction techniques using numerical models. It is amazing to see this research receiving such important recognition.” said Division President Irka Hajdas.

Klaus Hasselmann working on a similar problem in the 1970s was also constructing numerical models at the interface of multiple Earth systems. By creating statistical models to simplify complex dynamic systems, Hasselmann discovered ways to identify anthropogenic signals in atmospheric models, separating them from background signals and those created by natural phenomena. In 2002 he was awarded the Vilhelm Bjerknes medal specifically for his work in ocean-atmosphere modelling, predicting ocean waves and detecting these subtle signs of anthropogenic climate change.

“Process-based climate models provide us with the tools to understand changes in the climate system that have occurred from human activities, and allow us to anticipate what will happen, depending on our future course of action. This seminal feat of science is based on the sound foundation set by the pioneering work of Manabe and Hasselmann. This knowledge and predictive power, once thought possible only in science fiction, comes with the tremendous responsibility of action to avoid the most dire of possible futures.” said Atmospheric Sciences Division President Athanasios Nenes.

Representing the European Geosciences Union as a whole, EGU President Helen Glaves extends her best wishes, “On behalf of EGU I would like to add my congratulations to the new Nobel laureates for Physics. We are delighted to see previous EGU medallists receiving such a significant recognition of their contribution to climate research.”


Hazel Gibson
EGU Head of Communications
Munich, Germany
X @EuroGeosciences

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