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A Coast-to-Coast Picture of America's Cacophony of Sounds

By Science News

February 20, 2015

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The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) used algorithms to predict the loudness of a typical summer day from coast to coast.

NPS' Kurt Fristrup, Colorado State University's Daniel Mennitt, and other researchers fed data from about 1.5 million hours of acoustical monitoring into a machine-learning program. For each location, the scientists included details such as average summer precipitation and weekly plane overflights. The program discerned patterns in the geography data and predicted where the noise is.

The team also created a map to display the summer soundscape. The map shows the eastern half of the U.S. is louder than the West, and cities and loud highways are clearly visible. The researchers also predicted the loudness of a summer's day without people, and again the East is louder, with the Mississippi River standing out as well as south Florida.

The researchers say the findings also could benefit urban planners and biologists.

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