A strange sound from the Caribbean Sea can be heard from space

Our planet is both breathtaking and mysterious. Every once in a while, scientists find another phenomenon that causes us to reevaluate everything we know about our world. Now, researchers have discovered a strange sound coming from the Caribbean Sea which produces an interaction that causes dramatic changes, altering the Earth’s gravity field.

Pictured above, the Caribbean can be seen from the International Space Station
Pictured above, the Caribbean can be seen from the International Space Station

It turns out that the Caribbean sea produces a sound that can be heard from space. However, the eery A-flat tone it produces is far too low for human ears to detect.

The mystery sound was found after a study led by scientists from the University of Liverpool in the region found that the Caribbean behaves like a giant instrument through unusual oscillation in the Earthy gravity field.

Researchers noticed the strange phenomenon while analyzing activity in the area between 1958 and 2013.

By examining sea levels and pressure readings from the bottom of the Caribbean Ocean, tide gauges and satellite measurements of gravity, experts found out that the area produces that they have called a ‘Rossby Whistle.’

The strange phenomenon occurs when a larger wave flowing westwards interacts with the seafloor. As the wave reaches the boundaries to the west, it dies out but reappears on the eastern side of the basin. Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the ‘Rossby Wormhole’.


A massive Whistle

The Rossby wave occurs as large, westward Rossby waves and the seafloor of the Caribbean interact. This phenomenon causes water to pour in and out of the basin every 120 days. This dramatic change in mass even alters out planet’s Gravity Field. Researchers say that when ocean current flow through  the Caribbean sea, it becomes unstable.  The phenomenon produces a sound which can be ‘heard’ using gravity measurements.  

However, this process can only be made possible by waves of a particular length, or otherwise the cancel themselves out. The so-called Rossby waves tend to reinforce themselves producing an oscillation with a distinct period.

Interestingly, during this interaction, water is known to pour in and out of the basin every 120 days. The dramatic change in mass ALTERS the Earths gravity field. This causes the Caribbean sea whistle, which lets out an A-Flat tone which is below the audible range for humans, but is registered from space.

‘We can compare the ocean activity in the Caribbean Sea to that of a whistle,’ said Professor Chris Hughes, an expert in Sea Level Science at the University.

‘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.”
According to experts, the Rossby whistle is more than just a sound. Researchers believe that the sound could have an effect on changing sea levels and in turn increase the probability of flood losses.

‘This phenomenon can vary sea level by as much as 10 cm along the Colombian and Venezuelan coast, so understanding it can help predict the likelihood of coastal flooding,’ Hughes said.


University of Liverpool

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