Carl Wunsch

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Carl Isaac Wunsch
Born (1941-05-05)May 5, 1941
Brooklyn, United States of America
Fields Oceanography, Geophysics, Statistics
Institutions Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thesis On the scale of the long period tides (1966)
Doctoral advisor Henry Stommel

Carl Wunsch was the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, until he retired in 2013.[1] He is known for his early work in internal waves and more recently for research into the effects of ocean circulation on climate.


Wunsch received his Ph.D. in Geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1966. He began teaching there in 1967, achieving tenure in 1970, and was named Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography in 1976.

Climate change[edit]

On the subject of global warming he has said:

Thus at bottom, it is very difficult to separate human induced change from natural change, certainly not with the confidence we all seek. In these circumstances, it is essential to remember that the inability to prove human-induced change is not the same thing as a demonstration of its absence. It is probably true that most scientists would assign a very high probability that human-induced change is already strongly present in the climate system, while at the same time agreeing that clear-cut proof is not now available and may not be available for a long-time to come, if ever. Public policy has to be made on the basis of probabilities, not firm proof. [1]


I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component. But I have tried to stay out of the climate wars because all nuance tends to be lost, and the distinction between what we know firmly, as scientists, and what we suspect is happening, is so difficult to maintain in the presence of rhetorical excess. In the long run, our credibility as scientists rests on being very careful of, and protective of, our authority and expertise... I am on record in a number of places as complaining about the over-dramatization and unwarranted extrapolation of scientific facts. Thus the notion that the Gulf Stream would or could "shut off" or that with global warming Britain would go into a "new ice age" are either scientifically impossible or so unlikely as to threaten our credibility as a scientific discipline if we proclaim their reality [2]


Climate change is arguably one of the most complicated of all scientific problems, because it involves the changing atmosphere, the changing ocean, the changing land, the ice, the biology on both land and sea, possible changes in the sun and anybody who tells you they know what is going to happen 20 years from now, 100 years from now, is not a good scientist, because the science can only say at this stage there's certain possibilities that we are aware of. They are possibilities that we think society should take very seriously and try to decide how it is going to deal with them if they come about. That's quite different from my saying that I know the ice sheets are going to melt in the next 50 years. I don't know that, it's a possibility and something to worry about, but my credibility, the credibility of my colleagues is completely lost when people are broadcast saying, "I know that carbon dioxide is not changing the world," or, "I know the ice sheet will melt". This destroys the science in the long run. [3]

He was one of the scientists interviewed in the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle but says his: discussion was grossly distorted by context... My appearance in the "Global Warming Swindle" is deeply embarrassing, and my professional reputation has been damaged. I was duped [4]. He has also said: Durkin says that I reacted to the way the film portrayed me because of pressure from my colleagues. This is completely false. I did hear almost immediately from colleagues in the UK who saw the film who didn't berate me. They simply said, "This doesn't sound like you, this seems to be distorting your views, you better have a look at this". And having had a look at what they did with my comments in the film out of context and cutting away many of the important things that I thought were important that dealt with the science of it, it was a complete distortion of what I had told Durkin I believed. [5]

Selected honors[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Carl Wunsch, Discrete Inverse and State Estimation Problems, 2006. ISBN 0-521-85424-5
  • Carl Wunsch, Marc Poitevin The Ocean Circulation Inverse Problem, 1996. ISBN 0-521-48090-6
  • Walter Munk, Peter Worcester, Marc Poitevin and Carl Wunsch, Ocean Acoustic Tomography, Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-521-47095-1


  1. ^ Hill, Helen (31 May 2013). "Faculty News". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 4 February 2014. 

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