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Cold From Polar Vortex Making Sound Travel Slower, Seem Louder

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miller250 Steve Miller
Steve Miller is an investigative reporter and has been with Newsradio...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Since the polar vortex started spinning into town this week – you may have noticed that some things seem louder than usual.

WBBM’s Steve Miller asked a scientist what’s going on.

The planes approaching O’Hare aren’t any closer than usual.

Mike Davis, interim vice president at Wilbur Wright College, says they just sound closer – and seem louder.

“When it’s cold on days like yesterday and today, sound tends to travel a little bit slower. So the sound that you’re hearing isn’t going by you as quickly as it would on a hot day. Which means you’re hearing that sound for a prolonged period of time.

“So your body is really getting a chance to experience that sound.”

Mike Davis is a chemist by training.

He says the snow blankets other sounds – for instance, leaves rustling.

“All the background noise that you might listen to while you’re listening to that plane fly overhead – that’s not there anymore.

“So the loudest sound is almost the only sound you’re hearing – which is that plane going overhead.”

Davis is encouraging anyone interested in the physics of sound to register for courses at City Colleges of Chicago.

Registration gets underway again Wednesday at City Colleges. For more information, click here.

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