Manabe has greatly contributed to the scientific understanding of climate changes, which threatens present and future generations. He has played a major role in the advance of theoretical climate research, involving the complex interactions among solar input, energy transfer, and dynamics in the atmosphere, hydrological and cryospheric processes, as well as couplings with the oceans. Manabe was the first to explore the climatic effects of an increase in the atmospheric CO2 content using a comprehensive global climate model, showing future temperature rise.
Manabe is one of the foremost pioneers regarding the use of numerical models. Since the 1960s, he has played a leading role in the development of global circulation models. Over a period of three decades, these models have been at the leading edge of climate research. The results of his early work carried out three to four decades ago predicted a temperature increase which now is still in the middle of the range of estimates made by various modeling groups around the world. In addition, Manabe has studied in the best available detail critical issues in the earth’s hydrological cycle, especially related to soil humidity, which is of course a factor of the greatest importance for agriculture and the biosphere. His findings include regional variation of temperature rise and potential impacts on agricultural production.
In the early 1960′s, Manabe and his team of researchers developed a radiative-convective model of the atmosphere, and explored the role of greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and ozone in maintaining and changing the thermal structure of the atmosphere. This was the beginning of the long-term research on global warming, which have continued until now in collaborating with the staff members of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of NOAA.
In the late 1960′s, Manabe together with Kirk Bryan developed a general circulation model of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-land system, which eventually became a very powerful tool for the simulation of Global warming.
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Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Manabe’s research group published seminal papers using these models to explore the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to changing greenhouse gas concentrations. These papers formed a major part of the first global assessments of climate change published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Other important work done by Manabe included the suggestion that climate might have more than one stable state and the demonstration that switches between such states could be induced in a relatively realistic model by melting ice caps.
After his Ph.D. in Meteorology in 1958 Manabe moved to the United States, where since 1968 he has worked at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Princeton University. From 1997 to 2001, he worked at the Frontier Research System for Global Change in Japan serving as Director of the Global Warming Research Division. In 2002 he returned to the United States as a visiting research collaborator at the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Princeton Univeristy.
The research group started by Manabe is today known as the GFDL Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group