Episode 5: A Long History of Climate Science

Walter Munk & Charles Kennel

As we face the consequences of climate change, it may surprise some to learn just how long scientists—and denialists—have been talking about this problem. On this episode, Dr. Patrick Spero talks with two leading scientists and APS Members, Dr. Walter Munk and Dr. Charles Kennel, about the oceans and climate change. They explore how their interest in climate science grew out of work in oceanography (in Dr. Munk’s case going back to World War Two) and reflect on the state of the oceans, climate change, and what it all means for policymakers today.

Dr. Walter Munk, described as the “Einstein of the oceans,” was professor emeritus of geophysics and held the Secretary of the Navy/Chief of Naval Operations Oceanography Chair at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He gave a talk at the APS in April 2013 titled, “Corrigendum: Where the Swell Begins.”

Dr. Charles Kennel is Distinguished Professor, Vice-Chancellor, and Director emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He gave a talk at the APS in April 2014 titled, “The Hiatus in Global Warming.”

This episode is also a tribute to the amazing life and career of Dr. Munk who passed away at the age of 101 while the episode was in production. An engaged Member of the APS for more than half a century, Dr. Munk often generously hosted APS gatherings with his spouse, Mary Coakley Munk, at their wonderful seaside home. Dr. Munk was considered one of the greatest oceanographers of his time and, according to co-interviewee Charles Kennel, this episode "may have been the scientific last will and testament of a historically significant scientist."

Please listen until the end of the episode to hear Dr. Munk's friends and colleagues speak about his legacy.