Nobel Prize in Physics for Hamburg's Klaus Hasselmann

Founding director of Max Planck Institute for Meteorology wins prize for physical models of the Earth's climate
07 October 2021

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 is awarded to Klaus Hasselmann, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg and to Japan's Syukuro ManabePrinceton University in the United States “for the physical modelling of the Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming” and Italy’s Giorgio Parisi, at the Sapienza University of Rome "for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday (October 5, 2021). Hasselmann is one of the founding directors of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) and director of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Hamburg. As an internationally renowned climate researcher, his findings have contributed significantly to the scientific and public understanding of climate change.

Climate research in Hamburg with international appeal

Commenting on the award, Dr Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, said: "Klaus Hasselmann demonstrated the influence of humans on the climate as early as the late 1970s and made a significant contribution to basic research on global warming in his work at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology."  As a former professor and director at the University of Hamburg and scientific director at the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ), Hasselmann "made a groundbreaking contribution to Hamburg's profile as an internationally renowned centre of climate research with its own cluster of excellence", said Katharina Fegebank, Senator for Science and Research.

Nobel Prize in Physics for Hamburg-born researcher

Hasselmann was born in 1931 in Hamburg and later studied physics and mathematics at the University of Hamburg. He received his Ph.D. from the Max Planck Institute for Flow Research at the University of Göttingen in 1957. After his habilitation at the University of Hamburg, Hasselmann worked as a professor from 1966 and headed the Institute of Geophysics from 1969 to 1972. He was director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg from 1975 to November 1999 and was scientific director at the German Climate Computing Centre in Hamburg from 1988 to 1999.

His research has contributed significantly to understanding the ocean-atmosphere system, the prediction of ocean waves, the emergence of natural climate variability, and the modelling of the global coupled ocean-atmosphere carbon cycle. Hasselman has developed methods for identifying specific signals, fingerprints, that both natural phenomena and human activities imprint in the climate. His methods prove that the increased temperature in the atmosphere is due to human emissions of carbon dioxide.

Klaus Hasselmann, winner of Nobel Prize in Physics 2021
© Ill. Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach

Nobel Prize in Physics awarded since 1901

The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences since 1901, and since 2017 has been endowed with the equivalent of EUR 988,265 (10 million Swedish crowns). One half of this year's prize is being awarded jointly to Hasselmann and Manabe and the other half to Parisi. The Nobel Prizes in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Economic Sciences and Literature are presented to Nobel Laureates at ceremonies in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death, while the Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo.