When we mention sounds coming out of the Caribbean, you're probably thinking of reggae music.
But a new study by scientists at Britain's University of Liverpool reveals that the Caribbean Sea, a part of the Atlantic surrounded by South and Central America and the Caribbean islands, actually gives off a whistle-like noise that, while too low to be detected by the human ear, can be "heard" from space, in the form of oscillations in our planet's gravitational field.
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The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, discovered that ocean current flowing through the Caribbean becomes unstable and causes the formation of something called a Rossby wave.
The Rossby wave propagates and combines with ocean bottom pressure to create the inaudible sound.
As Liverpool professor Chris Hughes, one of the study's authors, explained in a press release: "We can compare the ocean activity in the Caribbean Sea to that of a whistle. When you blow into a whistle, the jet of air becomes unstable and excites the resonant sound wave which fits into the whistle cavity. Because the whistle is open, the sound radiates out so you can hear it."
"Because the Caribbean Sea is partly open, this causes an exchange of water with the rest of the ocean which allows us to 'hear' the resonance using gravity measurements."
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The scientists believe that the whistle may be useful in predicting the likelihood of coastal flooding. The phenomenon also may have an effect across in the North Atlantic, because it regulates the flow of the Caribbean Current, a precursor to the Gulf Stream, which influences weather patterns.
To reach their findings, the scientists used pressure readings from the Caribbean, taken between 1958 and 2013, and combined them with tide gauge records and data from NASA's Grace satellite.
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