For individuals longing to have some break from the hustle and bustle of life, heading to somewhere silent and peaceful could provide a much needed respite.
Thankfully, scouting for such quiet place would now be easier thanks to a new map that reveals which parts of America are the loudest and which ones are the quietest.
The map, a National Park Service project presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California on Feb. 16, depicts the noise levels across the U.S. on an average summer day based on 1.5 million hours of acoustic monitoring from places across the country ranging from the remote Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and the highly urbanized New York City.
Kurt Fristrup, from the National Park Service Division of Natural Sounds and Night Skies, and colleagues then fed these acoustic data into a computer algorithm that predicts the noise values in areas where sound was not directly measured, incorporating variables such as street traffic and air.
The deep blue regions in the map, which included the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, indicate areas with background noise levels that are lower than 20 decibels.
The researchers said that this noise level is likely as deep as the one from prior to the European colonization that occurred over 500 years ago and which is significantly quieter than most cities where the average noise levels range between 50 and 60 decibels.
The yellow areas on the map, which include Los Angeles, New York City and Dallas, have noise levels of at least 50 decibels. The map also revealed that the eastern half of the country is louder than the west. The researchers also considered the loudness without the presence of humans and found that the East tend to be the loudest, which is driven by noises produced by waters.
The researchers have come up with the map to identify the areas with sound levels that could affect the survival of some species that have sensitive hearing and need quiet to detect and catch their prey.
Bats and owls, for instance, have ears that are up to 20 decibels more sensitive compared with the human ears. These animals tend to be influenced by man-made noises because these drown the faint noise produced by the insects and rodents that they hunt.