Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Soundscapes in America's National Parks

Read this wonderful piece on the work of researchers recording the natural sounds of national parks all across the U.S. With more than 70 soundscapes so far, the scientists share that escaping anthropogenic sound is difficult (big surprise), and that, in some cases, the presence of human sound has had impacts on the ecosystem. In fact, certain wild sounds are becoming harder and harder to find, either due to human-made sound pollution itself, or the other impacts human development has had on the natural environment.

I'm reminded on John Cage's stance on conservation of natural sounds, and on the sonic opportunities we miss if we fail to save them. One of the researchers who has been recording soundscapes for the project agrees. "If we start to lose sounds of wilderness, we start to lose a piece of us," he said. "And that really hits at a place that we don't fully understand, but which is important."

Definitely worth the read:

Be sure to check out the great model of sound intensity across the US from the National Park Service.

Friday, June 24, 2016

"Rossby Whistle" in the Caribbean Is So Loud, You Can Hear It From Space

I live in the Caribbean at the moment. And so, while this scientific discovery is pretty cool anyway, it was especially cool to me, because I got to read it in my local news.

University of Liverpool researchers have discovered a very low, very loud sound coming from the Caribbean Sea. For those wondering, it's an A-flat, but it's too far below the range of human hearing for any of us down here to be bothered by it (thank goodness).

The researchers who discovered the sound have dubbed it the Rossby whistle after the Rossby waves — a.k.a. “planetary waves” — that push across the ocean and cause the sound when they reach the Caribbean.

This "whistle" happens, because the Caribbean Sea is partially closed, and party open, so when the water rushes in from the Atlantic Ocean, it's like the air rushing into a whistle and sound being projected out the open end. Apparently, this happens every 120 days, or so, when the Sea exchanges water with the ocean. And yes, it can be "heard" from outer space, being picked up as oscillations in the earth's gravity field.

Aside from being a super-cool natural phenomenon, the Rossby Whistle could have practical purposes for predicting coastal flooding.

Top image from