In memory of legendary Walter Munk

Walter Munk passed away 8th of February at the age of 101. The Legendary Scripps oceanographer defined a field of science, transformed understanding of nature, helped nurture a university into existence, and became a living synonym for oceanography.

Walter Munk: (October 19, 1917 – February 8, 2019)Walter Munk: (October 19, 1917 – February 8, 2019)

Munk was a great friend of Norway and the Nansen Center in Bergen. He had his heart in ocean sciences with particular interest in internal waves and acoustic oceanography. Together with Harald U. Sverdrup, he played a significant role in WWII providing pioneering wave forecasts. Their methods were used successfully to predict surf conditions for Allied landings in North Africa, in the Pacific and on D-Day during the Normandy invasion. Munk was the leading star of using sound to observe ocean temperature on different spatial and temporal scales.

The Nansen Center was involved when Walter Munk and his group at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1988-89 carried out a one year acoustic tomography experiment in the Greenland Sea to study the deep water connection. In the 1990s a global experiment was implemented to observe changes in ocean temperature on basin scales due to climate change in the Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC). The history of Walters engagement in observing the ocean with acoustic thermometry is described by Spindel and Worcester, 2016

Inspired by the work and achievements by Walter Munk and his colleagues, the Nansen Center has been working to get the acoustic thermometry as a an integrated part of the Arctic Ocean Observing System. This has resulted in a series of acoustic projects and experiments in the Fram Strait, and more recently in the Coordinated Arctic Acoustic Thermometry Experiment project to be implemented in summer 2019. All these activities builds on the pioneering effort by Munk and has been carried out as a close collaboration between the Nansen Center and the Acoustical Oceanography Group at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Last summer in Davos Walter Munk, at the age of 100 years, participated in a meeting about installing cables for combined communication and observation across the Arctic Basin. He was ready for the next step in Arctic Observing.

Munk is preceded in death by wife Judith, who died in 2006, and a daughter Lucian, who was born with a heart defect and died at the age of 7 in 1961. He is survived by daughters Edie of La Jolla and Kendall of State College, Penn., three grandsons Walter, Lucien, and Maxwell, and current spouse Mary Coakley Munk.

Read Obituary Notice from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego

spindelworcester_acousticstoday_2016.pdf3.49 MB