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John Wheeler: Fall brings much more than chilly temps

In fall, we hear sounds a little better.

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FARGO — As the air turns cooler in fall, we experience many changes to the environment that signal the change in seasons. Some of these changes are more noticeable than others. One subtle change is in the way sound carries through the air. The cooler, drier air of autumn is also denser than warm and humid air, and so provides a more efficient medium for sound waves to travel. In fall, we hear sounds a little better.

Temperature inversions, which are more common and more pronounced in fall, are another reason for better sound. When the ground cools at night, nearby air is also cooled, creating a layer of air near the ground which is cooler than the air just above. This layer might be a hundred to a few hundred feet thick. The top of this layer is called the Boundary Layer and it can bend sound waves back to the ground, allowing sound waves to travel for greater distances.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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