Carl Wunsch

Professor Emeritus of Physical Oceanography

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Darius Collazo 617.253.0251

Known for pioneering methods of modern oceanography and shaping our understanding of global ocean circulation and its climate implications.

Carl Wunsch is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor Emeritus of Physical Oceanography at MIT. His degrees are from MIT (mathematics and geophysics) and he has spent his professional career there. He has had two year long sabbaticals at Cambridge (Dept. of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics) and others at University College London, the Oceanography Centre in Southampton, GRGS-Toulouse, Harvard University, and was George Eastman Visiting Professor and Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. 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  is 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. His interests exploit mathematical methods such as inverse theory and state estimation for understanding of the ocean circulation and climate.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society and has received a number of awards including the Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union, 2006, and the 2015 Walter Munk Medal.

Prof. Wunsch is the author or co-author of about 250 scientific papers and the author of several books including, Ocean Acoustic Tomography (with W. Munk and P. Worcester); The Ocean Circulation Inverse Problem; and Discrete Inverse and State Estimation Problems, all with Cambridge and  Modern Observational Physical Oceanography (2015, with Princeton U. Press).

Key Awards & Honors

  • 2021 • Prince Albert I Medal, International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans
  • 2015 • Walter Munk Medal, Oceanography Society
  • 2006 • William Bowie Medal, American Geophysical Union
  • 2003 • Member, American Philosophical Society
  • 2002 • Foreign Member, Royal Society of London