Manabe Syukuro 1931

AS A JAPANESE meteorologist generally regarded as the world's leading scientist in the field of numerical modeling of climate and climate change, Syukuro

Manabe pioneered the use of computers to simulate global climate change and natural climate variations. Manabe was one of the first scientists to study the phenomenon of global warming in the 1970s, when he investigated the possibility that the emissions of great quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas could affect climate.

Born in 1931, Manabe graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1958. The post-war period was a difficult time for scientists in Japan. Manabe was among those who, like Akio Arakawa, found better career opportunities in the United States, where the Cold War kept steady government funding for fields such as geophysics and computer science. Manabe was hired as a researcher by Joseph Smagorinsky, then the director of the U. S. Weather Bureau near Washington, D.C. Sma-gorinsky wanted to develop the insights of John von Neumann and Julie Charney into a general circulation model of the entire three-dimensional global atmosphere, built directly from the primitive equations.


Smagorinsky and Manabe put into their model details that would be influential for the discovery of global warming. Their model accounted for the way rain fell on the surface and evaporated, how radiation passing through the atmosphere was impeded, not only by water vapor but also by ozone and carbon dioxide gas (CO2), how the air exchanged water and heat with simplified ocean, land, and ice surfaces, and much more. Manabe had always been interested in the effects of CO2, and the impact of CO2 on the future climate. Manabe's interest stemmed from the consideration that the gas at its current level was a significant factor in balancing the planet's heat. When Fritz Moller theorized that even mild perturbations and human actions could cause a global catastrophe, Manabe decided to work on a model that might account for how the climate system might change. He came to the conclusion that the entire atmosphere had to be studied as a tightly interacting system. In his model, Manabe took full account of water in all its forms. It included the feedback between the air's temperature and the amount of moisture the air would hold. In particular, Manabe calculated the way rising columns of moisture-laden air conveyed heat from the surface into the upper atmosphere.

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