Walter Munk: surf forecasting pioneer | Photo: Scripps UCSD

American oceanographer and surf forecasting pioneer Walter Munk celebrated his 100th anniversary.

Walter Heinrich Munk was born on October 19, 1917, in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. At the age of 15, his parents sent him to New York because they wanted him to follow a career in finance.

But he never liked banking, and by 1947, Munk had already earned a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Seven years later, La Jolla's Scripps Institution of Oceanography hired him as an assistant professor of geophysics.

During World War II, Walter Munk and his colleagues developed several surf forecasting techniques that were used by the Allies for the legendary amphibious landings in Normandy (D-Day), North Africa, and in the Pacific War battles.

Walter Munk, 1963: tracking storm driven waves in Samoa | Photo: Scripps UCSD

Munk was particularly angry with Germany because Hitler had annexed his country of birth, and so he became a US citizen and decided to join the war effort.

Often nicknamed the "Einstein of the Ocean," Munk is definitely the world's greatest living oceanographer. There's even a unit of measurement named after him - the "Munk Unit."

The American researcher also delivered relevant scientific results in several studies involving currents, the spread of radioactivity, tsunami behavior, propagation of waves, tide prediction and measurement, ocean acoustics, and underwater waves.

The city of La Jolla dedicated a section of its boardwalk to the oceanographer. The Walter Munk Way is a celebration of the surf forecasting sciences and a well-deserved tribute to the man who boosted the swell prediction methods.

Discover the glossary of surf forecasting terms, and learn how a wave is created.

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