Science Diary: Volcano – Pele

Science Diary: Volcano – Pele

Ambience: Pele’s chant, volcanic rumble

The lowest frequency sound that we humans can detect is about 20 cycles a second, and that’s not nearly low enough to hear the deepest sounds produced by a volcano. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Milton Garces is director of the University of Hawaii’s Infrasound Laboratory. He uses infrasonic microphone arrays, which are like a set of giant hearing aids, to enable us to eavesdrop on a volcano’s ultra-low frequency sounds.

A March 2008 explosion exposed a new vent within Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. As gasses ascend from deep within Kilauea, this vent acts like a kind of wind instrument and produces a low-frequency resonance, which has been referred to as Pele’s Chant. We speed up the recordings of these low frequency sounds 100 times to place them within the range of human hearing.

Garces: We had a substantial explosion. We picked up this explosion really loud and clear. And that is producing a very unique, very loud infrasonic signal that we’re going to be studying in great detail over the next few months.

Certain animals, such as elephants, are thought to communicate with very low frequency calls. Infrasonic signals are also produced by meteor activity and nuclear weapons testing, but these are likely to be unpredictable and brief. Pele’s Chant, however, is unique in that it’s continuous, providing scientists the opportunity to better understand the capabilities and limitations of infrasonic monitoring. You can check out Milton Garces’ blog, on pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Science Diary: Volcano - Pele

Like a giant wind instrument, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is producing a continuous low-frequency melody.
Air Date:07/15/2008
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Science Diary: Volcano - Pele

Ambience: Pele's chant, volcanic rumble

The lowest frequency sound that we humans can detect is about 20 cycles a second, and that's not nearly low enough to hear the deepest sounds produced by a volcano. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Milton Garces is director of the University of Hawaii's Infrasound Laboratory. He uses infrasonic microphone arrays, which are like a set of giant hearing aids, to enable us to eavesdrop on a volcano's ultra-low frequency sounds.

A March 2008 explosion exposed a new vent within Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. As gasses ascend from deep within Kilauea, this vent acts like a kind of wind instrument and produces a low-frequency resonance, which has been referred to as Pele's Chant. We speed up the recordings of these low frequency sounds 100 times to place them within the range of human hearing.

Garces: We had a substantial explosion. We picked up this explosion really loud and clear. And that is producing a very unique, very loud infrasonic signal that we're going to be studying in great detail over the next few months.

Certain animals, such as elephants, are thought to communicate with very low frequency calls. Infrasonic signals are also produced by meteor activity and nuclear weapons testing, but these are likely to be unpredictable and brief. Pele's Chant, however, is unique in that it's continuous, providing scientists the opportunity to better understand the capabilities and limitations of infrasonic monitoring. You can check out Milton Garces' blog, on pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.