Syukuro Manabe

“Uncertainty does exist, but there is little doubt that global warming is indeed happening.”

Quick Facts

Born: 1931 in Japan.

Occupation: Senior meteorologist at Princeton University (U.S.)..

Areas of Interest: Global warming and climate change.

Known For: Developing the first computerised models of the Earth’s climate.

Childhood and Education

Syukuro Manabe was brought up in Japan in quite a scientifically orientated family, with both his father and grandfather being doctors [1]. Assuming it was only right to follow in their footsteps, Manabe started studying biology at the University of Tokyo in 1949 [1]. But after two years there, he wasn’t developing any interest in the subject and felt that change was needed. He had always enjoyed mathematics and had a keen interest in the natural world, so decided to study geophysics at Tokyo instead [1]. After obtaining an undergraduate degree, Manabe then completed a master’s in geophysics and subsequently went on to receive a PhD in meteorology [2].


Following his PhD in 1958, Manabe was invited by Joseph Smagorinsky to work at the General Circulation Research Section of the U.S. Weather Bureau [2], where he remained until 1997 (later called the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory [GFDL] of NOAA) [3]. It was here where, in partnership with Smagorinsky, Kirk Bryan and other scientists, Manabe developed the first computerised models of the Earth’s climate, called General Circulation Models [4]. This sparked the beginning of long-term research into global warming, since for the first time a computer model was able to relate increased greenhouse gas emissions to temperature. Using a one-dimensional model that Manabe had helped develop in the early 1960s, he found that doubling the amount of CO2 would increase temperatures at the Earth’s surface by 2°C [4]. Manabe and Bryan published the first climate simulations from the General Circulation Models in 1969 [3]. Throughout the rest of his time at GFDL, Manabe continued his work into climate change using his models, including researching how increased CO2 relates to rising sea levels [4]. In 1997 he became Director of the Global Warming Research Division at the Frontier Research System for Global Change in Japan [3], before joining Princeton University in the U.S. in 2002, where he is now a senior meteorologist [5].

Awards and Achievements

  • In 1967 Manabe developed a one-dimensional atmospheric model and found that temperatures increase at the Earth’s surface and in the troposphere, and decrease in the stratosphere when CO2 levels are increased [3].
  • Recipient of the American Meteorological Society Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal [3].
  • Received the Revelle Medal and the William Bowie Medal from the American Geophysical Union, as well as the Milutin Milankovitch Medal from the European Geophysical Society [3][4].


  • To honour Manabe once he retired from GFDL, a three day meeting took place titled “Understanding Climate Change: A Symposium in honour of Syukuro Manabe” [3].
  • His work with Bryan on developing the first global climate models is one of the Top Ten Breakthroughs in 200 years of the NOAA [3].

Video Links

The significance of Manabe’s findings is explained in this video (2mins):

Short video clip about Manabe’s life and work (5mins):

Scientific Papers and Publications

Manabe, S., and Wetherald, R.T., The Effects of Doubling the CO2 Concentration on the Climate of a General Circulation Model, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 1975:

Manabe, S., and Bryan, K., Climate Calculations with a Combined Ocean-Atmosphere Model, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 1969: (Referred to in the above biography)