The Earth is making 'music' at speeds faster than 1,000 kilometres an hour

The Earth is making 'music' at speeds faster than 1,000 kilometres an hour
Earth, as seen at night, from outer spaceNASA

  • Just as the Moon creates tides, it also moves the atmosphere along with Sun’s influence.
  • The Earth is making ‘music’ with vibrations that explode like the ringing of a bell, according to a new study published in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences.
  • These atmospheric waves of music are moving across the globe at speeds faster than 1,000 kilometres per hour.
  • Scientists analysed more than 332,880 hours of the planet’s atmospheric movements to find the rhythm they were looking for.
  • Understanding how the Earth makes its ‘music’ could lead to more accurate weather forecasting in the future.
The Earth is marching to beat of its own drum as large scale waves of atmospheric pressure move across the globe and travel around the equator. Some go east-to-west while others move west-to-east.

Each of these waves is moving across the planet faster than 1,000 kilometres per hour.

The Earth’s musical tones are not conventional. We can’t hear them but the fact that the planet’s entire atmosphere vibrates in an analogous fashion was theorised for centuries, but it has now been confirmed by the scientists at the University of Hawaii.
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The Earth is making 'music' at speeds faster than 1,000 kilometres an hour
Animation of pressure patterns for four individual wave modesUniversity of Hawaii

“Our identification of so many modes in real data shows that the atmosphere is indeed ringing like a bell,” said Kevin Hamilton, one of the co-authors of the study published in Journal of Atmospheric Sciences.

A better understanding of Earth’s music means a better understanding of its climate to improve weather prediction models in the future.

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The Earth and its rhythm
We may not hear the Earth’s music but each of the waves travelling across the globe is a resonant vibration of the global atmosphere — just like the sounds that are produced when a bell is rung.

"For these rapidly moving wave modes, our observed frequencies and global patterns match those theoretically predicted very well," explained Takatoshi Sakazaki, the lead author of the paper.

In order to prove these wave patterns, the scientists have furnished a detailed description of observed atmospheric pressure over the globe every hour for the last 38 years. That’s 332,880 hours of the Earth’s music being recorded in the atmospheric reanalysis dataset produced by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) — ERA5.

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What's the Moon got to do with it?
Just as the Moon tugs at our planet's seas to create tidal waves in the ocean, it also pulls at our atmosphere along with the Sun, creating waves in the sky.

The only difference is that these atmospheric waves don't slosh around the same way ocean waves do. But if you know what to look for, you can see them in moving pockets of more tightly packed air, which are thousands of kilometres long.

The scientists identified some of the wave sets as Rossby waves powered by inertia and others Kelvin wave — ones that balance the Earth's Coriolis force against a topographic boundary such as a coastline.

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Going forward, the team of researchers plan to study these waves further in order to figure out what excites them or what makes them go silent.

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