Other-wordly sounds coming from the Caribbean Sea have been designated the “Rossby whistle”.
There’s a sound emanating from the Caribbean Sea that’s so loud, it can be heard from space. It’s not coming from sea monsters or ships, but rather from ocean waves. Who knew waves could be so creepy?
The alien-like noise is so low that it can’t be heard by human ears. It’s a very low A-flat. In fact, it’s about 30 octaves lower than the lowest A-flat on a piano. In the clip above, the pitch has been raised several octaves higher to make it audible to human ears.
What makes the sounds coming from the Caribbean Sea?
These strange sounds are the product of the movement of waves in the Caribbean Sea. University of Liverpool researchers discovered that planetary waves called “Rossby waves” were creating strange pressure oscillations. These oscillations produce a low, “whistle-like” noise.
One of the researchers, Chris Hughes, explained it this way: “We can compare the ocean activity in the Caribbean Sea to that of a whistle. When you blow into a whistle, the jet of air becomes unstable and excites the resonant sound wave which fits into the whistle cavity. Because the whistle is open, the sound radiates out so you can hear it. Similarly, an ocean current flowing through the Caribbean Sea becomes unstable and excites a resonance of a rather strange kind of ocean wave called a Rossby wave. Because the Caribbean Sea is partly open, this causes an exchange of water with the rest of the ocean which allows us to ‘hear’ the resonance using gravity measurements.”
He went on to say that the Caribbean Sea produces such a low-pitched sound because it is much larger than a standard whistle. Although it is low, it is powerful enough to be picked up by instruments in space.
The Rossby wave
Obviously, the explanation for these creepy sounds coming from the Caribbean Sea isn’t that creepy at all. However, the wave that causes the Rossby whistle, dubbed the Rossby wave, is a bit mysterious.
The Rossby wave in the Caribbean travels west across the ocean and then disappears in the western Caribbean basin. 120 days later, it reappears in the east. Researchers call this phenomenon the Rossby wormhole.
In general, Rossby waves are simply waves that behave according to the rotation of our planet. For this reason, they are also called planetary waves. Some Rossby waves, specifically atmospheric Rossby waves, have a high impact on weather.
The amazing Caribbean Sea
Don’t let these unearthly sounds coming from the Caribbean Sea scare you away from your dream vacation! Even if you’re swimming in its pristine turquoise waters, you won’t be able to detect the Rossby whistle.
If anything, the whistle is just one more cool trait to add to the list of interesting facts about the Caribbean Sea.
Plan your dream vacation with Key Caribe today, and discover what the Caribbean has to offer!
Main image source: NASA