Oceanographer Dr. Walter Munk Stopped by the Riford Center

Dr. Walter Munk spoke at the Riford Center's Distinguished Speaker Series on Thursday.

Renowned oceanographer Dr. Walter Munk spoke frankly about his accomplished career, love of , and travel tales over the past 70 years at the on Thursday evening.

Riford Center Board Member Reena Horowitz said, “Dr. Walter Munk is considered to be one of the world’s greatest living oceanographers. He has been awarded numerous awards for his superb science and discoveries in physical oceanography.”

Munk has been affiliated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography since 1939. He earned his Ph.D. in oceanography in 1947 and spent his entire career of research and teaching at Scripps Institute.

Munk, 94, disclosed how he first came to love La Jolla and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“I wish I could tell you that I came here that summer because I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life studying oceanography, but that wouldn’t be the truth,” said Munk. “I was dating a girl at Scripps College and she was spending the summer in La Jolla and I needed a job.”

“While that romance in a way did not last, but I fell in love with Scripps and have been in love with Scripps ever since,” he added.

Munk spoke about career highlights including his work with developing a system for forecasting surf, global acoustics, analysis of currents and water exchange during 1946 testing of the first hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, and tracking climate change associated with global warming.

He recounted his work with oceanographers such as Harald Sverdrup and shared personal photos of traveling with his family for research.

Munk also fielded questions from the crowd including his participation in D-Day. Munk had developed methods to predict wave conditions for the military. This data was used during the Normandy invasion.

“You may know that it was postponed by General Eisenhower for 24 hour because of wave conditions and Eisenhower decided to go in the next day… he decided that waiting for another two week for the next stage of tides would give away the surprise element,” said Munk.

Munk’s awards include the National Medal of Science, Prince Albert 1 Medal, and the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Chief of Naval Operations Oceanography Chair.

“I will end with a thanks to the Navy that has supported my career and our work,” said Munk.

Upcoming Riford Center events include another Distinguished Speaker Series chat with Charles Hartford on Feb. 29, antiques appraisals with Frank Kaminski on Feb. 21 and a daytrip to The Getty Center in LA on Feb. 15.

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