Walter Munk Way sign
The unveiling of Walter Munk Way. Photo by Chris Jennewein

After one of San Diego’s most beautiful beach walks was named in his honor Wednesday, famed oceanographer Walter Munk lamented that sea level rise from climate change could inundate the boardwalk within a century.

Munk, who turns 100 years old on Thursday, said he was worried that Walter Munk Way would be covered by the Pacific Ocean before the century is over.

“It’s going to take a miracle to prevent it from being flooded when it reaches the same age,” he said.

Walter Munk and his wife Mary.

Hundreds of scientific colleagues gathered at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores to honor Munk and witness the unveiling of one of three new signs along the boardwalk.

“We are here to honor and celebrate the lifetime of achievement of a pioneer in climate and ocean science,” said City Councilmember Barbara Bry, who spearheaded the naming. “Walter Munk is not only a world-renowned geophysicist…he is also a beloved local institution.”

Munk joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1939 as a young doctoral student, beginning eight decades of scientific achievement. He developed the science of wave forecasting, which helped Allied troops plan successful amphibious landings during World War II. And his pioneering work in ocean acoustics helped U.S. submarines dominate the seas during the Cold War.

He told that crowd that he was worried about the impact of climate change, but believed that a concerted effort by the United States and allied countries could change the outcome and it is his “fervent hope” this will happen. He liked the effort to the worldwide mobilization to defeat the Nazis in World War II.

“We need a similar climate mission,” he said.

Munk is still at work at Scripps, with a federal grant funding new research in wave forecasting.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria said legislators in Sacramento sometimes talk about their most famous constituents. “When it comes to me,” he said, “I report Walter Munk — he’s the Einstein of the seas.”

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.