Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
New data from National Park Service scientists shows that "most people live in environments where night skies and soundscapes are profoundly degraded."
If you're craving some quiet, get the heck outta Dodge—Dodge City, Kansas, that is. Or basically any city in the U.S.
A new "loudness" map from the National Park Service's Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division shows that most metro areas in the country are pretty loud. (You can see them below in the yellow and white.) Isolationists and the sound-sensitive might instead head to Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park or Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park.
To create this map, scientists from the National Park Service took sound measurements at hundreds of their park locations around the country. As they note in work presented this week at the AAAS Annual Meeting, "most people live in environments where night skies and soundscapes are profoundly degraded."
NPS's larger concern, however, is for the country's wildlife. National parks have become increasingly noisy places, with hikers, maintenance equipment and vehicles adding to what the agency calls "an on-going acoustic assault." Research has shown that certain species avoid noisy places, and that noise pollution can interrupt natural hunting and mating behaviors. Very loud sound isn't great for humans, either, as CityLab has reported.
But NPS scientists stress that places that are too loud can get quieter, and quickly. "Unlike many other forms of environmental degradation, sound and light offer opportunities for rapid improvement," NPS senior scientist Kurt Fristrup told CBS News this week.