Nobel Prize for physics winner shaped ground-breaking Earth-observing mission

Klaus Hasselmann, the Nobel Prize in Physics winner this year, helped to create a groundbreaking Earth-observation mission which paved the way towards modern research on our planet's environmental conditions.
The prize was given to Hasselman, a German oceanographer and climate modeler, for his contributions to physical modeling of Earth's climate. This has allowed scientists to better predict the effects of climate change and quantify its natural variability. Hasselman was awarded half of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physics, while scientists Syukuro Mangabe and Giorgio Parisi shared the other half for their research on disorder and fluctuations within physical systems.

Hasselman, who is now 89, is still active at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Meteorology. He was also part of an expert group that helped the European Space Agency (ESA), create its Earth observation program in the 1970s and to build its first mission dedicated for studying the Earth from the air.

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Josef Aschbacher (ESA Director General) stated in a statement that "We send our sincerest congratulations to Prof. Hasselmann for His well-deserved Nobel Prize,"

Hasselman was a member the High-Level Earth Observation Advisory Commission of the space agency. He contributed to the development and launch of European Remote Sensing satellites (ERS-1 and ERS-2).

ESA stated in a statement that Hasselmann had developed a method to measure ocean waves using synthetic aperture radar imaging (SAR). SAR instruments transmit a signal to ground, and measure the amount of reflection back. These instruments are increasingly employed by environment-monitoring satellites today and the technique developed by Hasselmann is still in use on current Earth-observing satellites such as the European Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar mission.

Aschbacher stated in the statement that Prof. Hasselmann is responsible for operational wave monitoring. Sentinel-1's 'wave mode', which provides essential data for ocean forecasting and maritime traffic safety, was a result of this.

Coincidentally the ERS-1 mission celebrated their 30th anniversary in this year. The space agency stated in a statement that ERS-1, which was launched on July 17, 1991. It was Europe's most advanced spacecraft at the time.

The 5,256-lb. satellite was also used to monitor wave heights. The satellite, which weighed 2,384 kilograms (2,384 kg), also had a radar altimeter (a sensor sending a pulse of radar to the ground that measures distance and determines how long it takes for the signal return to the ground) and a wind scatterometer (which monitors how radar signals are affected by disturbances in Earth’s atmosphere). The mission provided nine years of data on Earth's atmosphere, oceans, and land conditions. It failed in March 2000 after having exceeded its life expectancy by eight years.

ESA was able to continue collecting data on the planet's changing surface using its successor, ERS-2. ESR-2 was launched in 1995 and carried a dedicated sensor to monitor the ozone layer.

Hasselmann was awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physics along with Syukuro Mannabe from Princeton University and Giorgio Parisi, Sapienza University in Rome, Italy.

Syukuro is also involved in climate change prediction and physical modeling of Earth's climate. He was the first person to show that increased levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere can lead to higher temperatures on the surface of the Earth. Parisi's research focuses on the theoretical understanding of disordered material and random processes, including atom-scale as also planetary-level developments.