Carl Wunsch

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Membership Type: Emeritus (elected 1978)


Carl Wunsch was born in Brooklyn NY, went to high school in Westport Connecticut, and then received bachelor's and doctoral degrees from MIT. The latter were in mathematics and geophysics (1967)  respectively. His PhD adviser was Henry Stommel and his thesis concerned the oceanic response to the fortnightly tide. He was appointed Lecturer in physical oceanography (1967) and then assistant professor (1968) in what was then the MIT Department of Geology and Geophysics. He rose through the ranks to become Cecil and Ida Green Professor in 1976 which he held until becoming Emeritus in 2012. At that time, he also became Visiting Professor of Physical Oceanography and Climate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard Un. For some years he simultaneously held a Secretary of the Navy Research Professorship and was Department Head. He was a sabbatical visitor at Cambridge Un.; Cal Tech; Princeton; CNES-CNRS,Toulouse; Un. College London; NOS, Southampton; Harvard Un. In 2011-2012 he was the George Eastman Professor at Balliol College and the Dept. of Physics, Oxford. He is a member of the NAS, a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London, fellow of the AAAS, member of the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Wunsch has worked on many aspects of physical oceanography and its climate implications, with emphasis on observations of all types, including the global-scale, using satellites and acoustic tomographic, and various conventional observation methods. Early in his career, he spent many months working at sea. He was an organizer of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment, chaired the science committees leading to the flight of altimetric satellites, and was deeply involved in the analysis of the oceanic general circulation and its climate influences including aspects such as sea level change, and the interpretation of the paleoceanographic record.

Research Interests

Ongoing research interests include the general circulation of the ocean; the use of sequential statistical methods with models for determining climate change and its structures (geophysical fluid statistics); and applications of passive acoustics for measuring the ocean circulation and its changes.

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