• 1963 – Conducted the “Waves Across the Pacific” experiment to study the propagation of waves from the Antarctic across the Pacific.
• 1964 – Founded the Institute of Geophysics, later renamed the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.
• 1969 – Began measuring tides in the deep sea, using highly sophisticated pressure-sensing instruments dropped to the ocean floor and retrieved via acoustic release.
• 1965:1975 – With Dave Cartwright, worked to improve tide prediction, publishing “Tidal Spectroscopy and Prediction” in 1967.
• 1979 – Published “Sound transmission through a fluctuating ocean,” with R. Dashen, K.M. Watson, and F. Zachariasen.
• 1984 – Navy Secretary John F. Lehman, Jr. named Munk one of four Secretary of the Navy research chairs in oceanography. As chair, Munk worked to reaffirm the strong interest of the Secretary of the Navy in oceanography and to recognize the leading oceanographers in the United States.
• 1991 – In the acoustic thermometry of ocean climate (ATOC) project, he conducted ocean acoustics experiments to test long-range sound signals at Heard Island, a remote location in the southern Indian Ocean. The experiments were to determine whether the sound generated could be heard around the world and if a correlation could be made to ocean warming, since sound travels faster in warmer water than cooler water. These broadcasts, which were traced thousands of miles away, become known as “the sound heard around the world.”
• 1995 – Along with Peter Worcester and Carl Wunsch, published “Ocean Acoustic Tomography”, a comprehensive presentation of the underlying oceanography and mathematics that interprets certain physical properties of the ocean.
Authored more than 200 scientific research papers beginning in 1941, when he published “Internal Waves in the Gulf of California” in the Journal of Marine Research. His recent publication, “Multipurpose Acoustic Networks in the Integrated Arctic Ocean Observing System,” was published in in the
Munk was born on Oct. 19, 1917 in Vienna, Austria. At age 14 he moved to New York and later studied physics at Columbia University. He became a United States citizen in 1939. He attended the California Institute of Technology and received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1939 and a master’s degree in geophysics in 1940. He attended Scripps Institution of Oceanography and received a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of California in 1947.
During World War II, Munk and Harald U. Sverdrup, then director of Scripps Institution, developed a system for forecasting breakers and surf on beaches, a technique of crucial importance in military amphibious landings. Munk served for a year in the United States Army Ski Battalion, for a year as an oceanographer with the University of California Division of War Research, and as a meteorologist for the Army Air Force.
During the 1946 testing of nuclear weapons at Bikini Atoll in the western Pacific Ocean, he participated in analysis of the currents and diffusion in the lagoon and the water exchange with the open seas.