Sound-producing sand avalanches

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Sound-producing sand grains constitute one of nature's more puzzling and least understood physical phenomena. They occur naturally in two distinct types: booming and squeaking sands. Although both varieties of sand produce unexpectedly pure acoustic emissions when sheared, they differ in their frequency range and duration of emission, as well as the environment in which they tend to be found. Large-scale slumping events on dry booming dunes can produce acoustic emissions that can be heard up to 10 km away and which resemble hums, moans, drums, thunder, foghorns or the drone of low-flying propeller aircraft. These analogies emphasize the uniqueness of the phenomenon and the clarity of the produced sound. Although reports of these sands have existed in the literature for over one thousand years, a satisfactory explanation for either type of acoustic emission is still unavailable.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 1997

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