The Tolling of the Atmosphere

Earth from the ISS.

Strum a musical instrument and you create a host of vibrations at many different frequencies. The same is true of our atmosphere, which rings at frequencies far too low for us to hear. The first theoretical descriptions of this atmospheric ringing date back two centuries to Pierre-Simon Laplace. A new study provides the first experimental evidence of this atmospheric ringing by analyzing 38 years’ worth of hourly atmospheric data.

The authors found good agreement with the structures predicted by classical theory, but they point out that understanding the mechanisms that drive the ringing requires more research. Since studies of vibrations in the Earth and sun have revealed new dynamics in those systems, it’s likely analyses like these can teach us much more about how our atmosphere functions. (Image credit: NASA; research credit: T. Sakazaki and K. Hamilton; submitted by K. Hamilton)

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