Airdate: Mar 08, 2000
Scientist: Jeffrey Nystuen
LISTENING TO RAINDROPS
Scientists are tuning in to the sounds of raindrops to learn more about the workings of our climate.
We're listening to the sound of raindrops as they fall over the open seas. They are being recorded from underwater as part of an attempt to measure rainfall over the ocean. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.
Our oceans play a major role in determining the world's weather and rainfall is a crucial component in our ever changing climate. But up till now there's been no good way to measure ocean rainfall.
"Rain is a very good producer of underwater sound. It's louder than a high wind, louder than a hurricane, and so it's very easy to listen for and hear the sound of rain underwater."
Jeffrey Nystuen is an oceanographer at the University of Washington. He and his team have attached microphones to buoys floating in the Pacific Ocean. 65 feet underwater the microphones detected two distinctive sounds associated with rainfall - the slapping sound of a raindrop hitting the surface, as well as a ringing sound. The ringing comes from air bubbles being trapped underwater as the raindrop strikes the surface.
ambience: sound of raindrop ring and raindrops falling
"We've discovered that different size raindrops make different sounds underwater, so we can actually listen for small drops and for big drops; and by listening to the level of sounds, we can count the number of raindrops present and that allows us to actually measure rainfall rate using the underwater sound."
By monitoring ocean raindrops, Nystuen is able to learn more about the types of clouds that form during a storm and general patterns of rainfall. Knowing more about the role of rainfall will give scientists a better understanding of such weather phenomena as El Nino, and the floods and droughts that it triggers around the world.
Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.