Klaus Wyrtki

A special symposium to pay tribute to University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Emeritus Klaus Wyrtki will take place on Monday, April 8, opening with a reception from 5 p.m., and continues through April 9. Wyrtki passed away in February 2013.

Wyrtki helped found the UH Mānoa’s Department of Oceanography in 1964. He and his students pioneered the study of ocean physics around the Hawaiian Islands and throughout the Pacific.

The symposium will present a prestigious line-up of scholars and experts in the fields of oceanography and meteorology to honor Wyrtki and his scientific and educational legacy.

Please visit Wyrtki’s website or email Roger Lukas or Kellie Terada for more details.

Wyrtki’s legacy

Among his numerous fundamental contributions to observing and understanding global ocean and climate processes during his distinguished career, Wyrtki’s most important and well-known contribution is his work on the El Niño/Southern Oscillation phenomenon. He discovered the basin-wide ocean dynamics that are essential in the development of El Niño and hypothesized that El Niño was a predictable phenomenon at lead times of a few months. Wyrtki inspired and conducted research programs that ultimately were able to demonstrate and exploit this predictability.

Following the 1972-73 El Niño event, he worked with students and staff to build the Pacific Sea Level Network to monitor the tropical Pacific in near-real time. He established the UH Sea Level Center, which has played a major role in subsequent climate research and in providing operational observations for ocean initialization and tsunami warnings. Wyrtki worked with colleagues around the world to ultimately establish the Global Sea Level Observing System.

Wyrtki received wide recognition for his contributions; in addition to being named a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Wyrtki was also a fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He received the Rosenstiel Medal, the Albert Defant Medal from the German Meteorological Society, the Maurice Ewing medal from the AGU, the Sverdrup Gold Medal from the AMS, the Prince Albert I medal from IAPSO, and the Alexander Agassiz Award from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Wyrtki became Professor Emeritus of the University of Hawaiʻi in 1993.