New Map Knows Noise
It's harder and harder to find peace and, especially, quiet. Just ask a field researcher deep in the wilderness. Even in the most remote parts of Alaska the sound of a jet crossing overhead is all too common.
So scientists with the National Park Service set off across the U.S. to study our audio ecology. They recorded more than a million hours of sound from the depths of the Great Basin's deserts to the hurly burley of the megalopolis that stretches from Boston, through New York City and on to Washington, D.C.
They found that if you're craving quiet on the east coast head to the north woods of Maine or the Adirondacks in upstate New York. But for real quiet—defined as less than 20 decibels—the West is best.
The great swath of territory west of the Rockies but east of the western coast includes national parks, wilderness areas and even public lands that are probably as quiet as they were centuries ago. The researchers made that claim while presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on February 16th.
Noise pollution is not good for people and it's even worse for animals with more sensitive ears, like bats. And the problem is not confined to land but echoes across the seas as well, where human-produced noise interferes with the lives of various ocean dwellers, including whales. These days on Earth it's rare to hear [silence].