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Unusually loud ambient noise in tidewater glacier fjords: a signal of ice melt

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Full Publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2014GL062950

Product Type: Journal Article

Year: 2015

Authors: Pettit, E. C., K. M. Lee, J. P. Brann, J. A. Nystuen, P. S. Wilson, and S. R. O'Neel


Suggested Citation:
Pettit, E. C., K. M. Lee, J. P. Brann, J. A. Nystuen, P. S. Wilson, and S. R. O'Neel. 2015. Unusually loud ambient noise in tidewater glacier fjords: a signal of ice melt. Geophysical Research Letters 42(7):2309-2316. doi:10.1002/2014GL062950

Abstract


In glacierized fjords, the ice-ocean boundary is a physically and biologically dynamic environment that is sensitive to both glacier flow and ocean circulation. Ocean ambient noise offers insight into processes and change at the ice-ocean boundary. Here we characterize fjord ambient noise and show that the average noise levels are louder than nearly all measured natural oceanic environments (significantly louder than sea ice and non-glacierized fjords). Icy Bay, Alaska has an annual average sound pressure level of 120 dB (re 1 μPa) with a broad peak between 1000 and 3000 Hz. Bubble formation in the water column as glacier ice melts is the noise source, with variability driven by fjord circulation patterns. Measurements from two additional fjords, in Alaska and Antarctica, support that this unusually loud ambient noise in Icy Bay is representative of glacierized fjords. These high noise levels likely alter the behavior of marine mammals.

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