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Weather Almanac for December 2003
SING ME THE SONG THE WIND MAKES
Did you ever take pencil and book to scribe down the sounds the wind makes
For stage two of the exercise, I moved my base of operations to the shores of Beaver Lake. While at the seashore, the wind sang unaccompanied, or at least unplugged, at the lake the wind had a full orchestra for backup and a chorus of avian voices. Late autumn brings the fullest symphony as the deciduous trees offer branches leafed and unleafed, and supple green or dry, crisp brown leaves, and conifers presented their ever-constant range of phrasing. Below, the autumnal surface provided an enhanced percussion session of dry leaf rattles.
Even though these two locations are mere kilometres apart and I absorbed their delights within a span of hours, it is the nature of British Columbia to present millions of microclimates and micro-weather variations over small distances. And so, at Beaver Lake a spunky wind blew across the lake and over the forest canopy, leaving chattering zephyrs at the base of trees sighing heavily above.
I picked a special tree placed at centre-stage, row one, for my second round of Murchie's charge. Here is my wind sound list, forest-lake style:
As I rose to leave, a solo voice emerged distinct above the others, a flutter and clatter. I looked for its source, and there, atop a medium-height giant maple, a single large, desiccated maple leaf clung precariously to a high branch terminus, determined to be the last of its cohort to release from the alto section and flutter to the bass-ment of the canopy.
Acoustic engineers have firmly established that the sound level of the pure wind (in decibels) is proportional to wind speed, increasing in volume as the wind picks up. But what we hear is also affected by the temperature of the air and its structure and by whether the wind is blowing toward or away. Gusts within the wind stream give additional waver and quaver to the wind song. At 20 km/h (13 mph), average wind noise is 40 db and rises to 85 db at 100 km/h (62 mph). The sound level at 85 db is equivalent to a garbage disposal or food blender, much noisier than 40 db which is the lower limit of urban sound, a quiet city day. A normal conversation clocks in at 60 db.
Storm winds therefore have a bigger voice, often engendering the greatest fears among those caught in the storm's wrath: a cry, a howl, a wail of wind. In many instances, the sound of the wind is the first note, a startling knock on the door of awareness.
Tornadoes often first announce their presence with a raging voice that eyewitnesses have described as sounding like:
|freight train||locomotive||jet engine||roar|
|howl||banshee wail||rumble||devil's voice|
|whine||bee swarm||bellow||buzz saw|
Those caught in the persistent driving winds of hurricanes have described them as:
Blizzards and the frigid breath of Nortus and friends have their own aeolian voices, heard as:
|singing||roars||the devil's fiddle||hissing|
The next storm in line off the coast is tuning its strings and adjusting its reeds, though at present, all I hear is the tuning-fork ping of the wind chime beside my window, when lull becomes waft. I hear curtain time for the next performance will be after dark, so as I set down my pen, I wonder: lullaby or wake-up call?
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