It is great news that two climate scientists, Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann, have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
Along with his colleagues at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, Manabe conducted pioneering work in the development of climate models, using these to estimate key aspects of the climate response to greenhouse gas increases.
Among this work were pioneering studies of the earth's climate sensitivity – warming in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels – and projections of warming, made in the late 1980s, for the 21st century.
Other work from Manabe demonstrated that early climate models were able to capture the basic spatial patterns we observe in 21st century warming.
This is because even Pacman-era climate models captured enough of the physical relationships that govern how the climate responds to changes in the composition of the atmosphere to exhibit the same broad geographical response humanity has been both driving and witnessing. In other words, climate models were right, for the right reasons.
Hasselmann's work into the role of the ocean in climate variability and change, and the detection of linear and nonlinear signals, laid some of the foundations for the field of detection and attribution of climate change, which compares the signals in space and time of the changes brought about by different things that can alter the climate – such as solar output, volcanic influences, changes in greenhouse gases.
This "line of evidence", in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's phrase, provides a comprehensive synthesis of how different factors combine to affect the climate, and plays a big role in pulling together our overall understanding of how humans are changing the climate.
The significance, and joy, for climate physicists in this award partly comes from seeing climate science appreciated within the physics community.
It will be with some satisfaction that climate physicists will be making their way to work this week.
Working in a large Physics Department in the United Kingdom around the millennium, we were very aware of strong perceptions around an intellectual hierarchy within physics, of which atmospheric, oceanic and planetary physics was not always an obvious beneficiary.
Manabe and Hasselmann are fantastic scientists who fully deserve their award.
Hopefully, this recognition of the quality and significance of climate physics – both as a branch of physics and as the central scientific aspect of a global social problem – is not a one-off.
As is probably always the case, there are many unlucky souls of similar vintage who perhaps have around about as good a claim.
In many ways the award shows how the individual nature of the prizes is perhaps a little dated.
Much of modern physics is a team game much more like rugby or football than it is like tennis – Hasselmann and Manabe were superstar parts of world-leading teams in Hamburg and Princeton respectively, much like Cristiano Ronaldo has been a superstar part of the world-leading teams for which he has played.
A large fraction of the really ground-breaking science of the post-war period is team-based: space exploration, the CERN machinery and its discoveries, climate modelling, modern commercial aviation, the Internet, and so on.
These profound achievements in applied and basic physical science just don't fit the model of the solitary genius strolling riverbanks or burrowing in libraries.
Perhaps it's time for some Academy of Science somewhere, Swedish or otherwise, to create a parallel set of awards for teams.
Just as the Olympics added team relays to individual sprint competitions, so the individual Nobel science prizes could be augmented by awards for units within organisations.
The size of the units would probably have to be capped to stop organisations like CERN and NASA from dominating proceedings.
But taking some steps to recognise that the giants on whose shoulders the descendants of Newton stand include the technicians, scientists and support staff who make modern research possible seems like an overdue move.
• Dave Frame is Professor of Climate Change and Director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Te Herenga Waka–Victoria University of Wellington, and Dr Suzanne Rosier, is a Climate Scientist at NIWA – Taihoro Nukrangi. They are climate scientists with doctorates in Physics.