Munk, Walter Heinrich

Munk, Walter Heinrich, 1917–2019, American oceanographer and geophysicist, b. Vienna (then in Austria-Hungary), B.S. California Institute of Technology, 1939, Ph.D Univ. of California, Los Angeles, 1947; he became a U.S. citizen in 1939. Munk spent most of his career at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, becoming a full professor there in 1954 (emeritus from 1988). During World War II, he worked at the U.S. Navy Radio and Sound Laboratory; with Harald Sverdrup, he developed methods, such as those for wave and tide prediction, useful for amphibious warfare. He and colleagues also did tests on currents and diffusion at Bikini during U.S. nuclear testing there (1946), and monitored conditions at Enewetak during hydrogen bomb testing (1952). Munk helped found the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps (1959) and was its director until 1982. He did pioneering research in ocean acoustics, including using the speed at which sound signals travel through ocean water to provide data on warming ocean temperatures. The documentary Waves across the Pacific (1967) was based on his study of how waves generated by storms in the Southern Hemisphere travel throughout the world's oceans. Among his books are The Rotation of the Earth: A Geophysical Discussion (1960, with G. J. F. MacDonald) and Ocean Acoustic Tomography (1995, with P. Worcester).

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