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What Does Nature Sound Like?

What Does Nature Sound Like?
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Written by the BBCEarth Team

From a mighty clap of thunder to the subtle rustling of leaves, everywhere we go it feels as though we are immersed in sound. We decided to hunt down some of the planetís lesser-known sonic wonders.

Speaking sands

For nearly a century, man has been baffled by the sound of singing sand dunes. The songs they emit are almost as diverse as the countless theories about how they occur.

The sound is produced when the sand on the surface of dunes avalanches. It was once thought that these sounds were produced by the friction between the grains. More recent studies have revealed that the sound continues after the sand has stopped moving and the song that the dunes sing varies depending on the time of year. Some researchers now theorize that the sound is caused by the reverberation between dry sand at the surface and a band of wet sand within the dune, hence it changes seasonally.

There are approximately thirty locations around the world where these booming dunes can be heard; the earliest records seem to date to Marco Poloís time in the Gobi Desert. However you donít need to adventure among the dunes to hear them sing; the strange sound, said to be like the drone of a low-flying propeller plane, has reportedly been heard up to ten kilometres away from its source.

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34 comments

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6:47AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

@Alison - Those same statements made me wonder, too, and then I decided the authors (BBCEarth Team) were simply waxing a bit poetic and not clearly stating what was meant - or at least not providing a clear path to those statements.

I think, from a purely objective scientific point of view, there is "good" to be found in listening to these sounds of the ice if they can be gathered and interpreted in a way that reveals further much needed and much desired data that will help better understand the workings of Mother Nature. Thus, the addition of more data would be "music to their ears" because more pieces of the puzzle would be more clearly revealed. But a scientifically minded appreciation of that "good" would not in any way imply that it is in any other way "good" that the ice is melting and making those sounds.

Being able to "hear the glaciers heave a sigh of relief" seems to me to be poetic and anthropomorphic commentary indicating that Mother Earth may be sighing, through the sounds of the ice, in relief that we humans may actually be getting closer to knowing and understanding that we are doing many things to the Earth that have serious negative impacts, and that we may change our behavior for the better of all beings, including Mother Earth. And that would be good. Hope that helps.

12:42AM PDT on Oct 28, 2011

I don't understand these two statements:
"However to researchers working in the field of climate science the groaning of the polar landscapes is music to their ears." and "it may be possible to use acoustics to measure the glacial melt. You can almost hear the glaciers heave a sigh of relief."

Why are these two things good? Because it proves the ice is melting? I'm confused.

10:50PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

~This article was really amazing~I heard some sounds on a story by Nat. Geo.~It's really cool to listen to nature's sounds!!~

9:14PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

Very few people listen to the sound of silence, the sound of nature because they walk around with earplugs blasting loud music into their ears and isolating themselves of what is really happening around them.
Humans are inherently stupid and unaware of what is happening around them.They do not care and life is passing them by without them realizing the beauty around them..Poor little insignificant human animals.

7:56PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

Thanks for very interesting information.

6:39PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

I can see why the world is full of sound today, it is because of natural forces within the planet that help us understand our ecosystem more.

5:23PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

The world is alive with the sound of music.... Thank you.

4:41PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

What a fabulous photo of a sand dune! Loved the whole article. Thank you.

2:55PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

I really like the section about 'stirring ice', what a great image!

2:10PM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

very interesting. thanks.

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