Friday, August 23, 2019

High Voltage Sounds

Every now and then when we're out at the marsh and walk past the high voltage wires, I hear a crackling sound. Roger doesn't hear it out there. I once tried to record it using the video/audio setting on my camera, but it really didn't pick up the sound. On Thursday we were out there and I heard it again. I set our iPhone on video record and got this. Roger listened to the recording and heard the sound for the first time. It's only 15 seconds of it, but I got it. Turn your volume way up!

I moved the phone around to see if one direction might pick it up more  than another. It sounds louder on the phone, but this does in some way convey that crackling sound. Scientific American did a piece on this sound, it's called the corona discharge.
The degree or intensity of the corona discharge and the resulting audible noise are affected by the condition of the air--that is, by humidity, air density, wind and water in the form of rain, drizzle and fog. Water increases the conductivity of the air and so increases the intensity of the discharge. Also, irregularities on the conductor surface, such as nicks or sharp points and airborne contaminants, can increase the corona activity. Aging or weathering of the conductor surface generally reduces the significance of these factors.
As you can see from this short video it was a foggy morning. What you can't see is that it was also pretty humid.  It wasn't crackling hot out there, but the high voltage wires were definitely crackling away.

30 comments:

  1. I heard it very clearly.

    That's what I hear every so often if I happen to walk up to the top of the mountain under our high tension wires, if the conditions are just right. It seems to require a lot of moisture in the air for it to be loud. I never hear it without fog or drizzle, despite the very high humidity we have all summer.

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    1. Mark-- I was glad I was able to record it because Roger never hears it. The right conditions and there it is!

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  2. I've heard the sound from time to time where footpaths pass beneath the wires and I hear it on your video too. I don't like these lines of pylons across the countryside but I do like the way the lights come on when I flick the switch!

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    1. John-- You express exactly what I think. I like the light but the wires not so much.

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  3. Remember hearing this around pylons too but here they are few and far between or maybe I just avoid them. It's probably a blessing that some people cannot hear this obnoxious sound.

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    1. Sabine-- It is a disconcerting sound to be able to actually hear that energy.

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  4. You learn something new everyday :) I often wondered.

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    1. Linda-- I have often wondered as well. Glad I found an answer.

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  5. When I worked for the power company we constantly got complaints that the EMF's (electric magnetic fields) from high tension lines could cause cancer. There has never been any data to back that up. Wouldn't hurt to keep a good distance though.

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    1. Patti-- I have wondered about a cancer connection. That would be a true bummer. The big wires are everywhere here.

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    2. no, no, no, THAT's wind turbines! Hee.

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  6. What I notice is the wind through the wires on a windy day. Try that one. Go out on a windy day and listen.

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    1. Red-- I love that idea. I will definitely try that.

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  7. With the warnings to avoid magnetic fields with my Pacemaker, I think I would shun this path.

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    1. Catalyst-- Oh yes, definitely avoid this path. Gotta stay safe and healthy!

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  8. Interesting. I heard it loud and clear.

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    1. Sharon-- It is an interesting sound out there in the right conditions.

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  9. Thank you for your research!

    Even with my new hearing aids, I needed to turn the volume up as high as possible and get fairly close to the laptop screen, but then I could hear the corona discharge! My hearing loss is for high frequency sound. My low frequency hearing is still normal.

    The sound must be very loud for birds and animals whose hearing is so much more developed than ours.

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    1. am-- You know me, I love finding answers to all kinds of questions. I'm so glad you could hear this. I am surprised that it did not occur to me at all what the effect might be on birds and animals. Really good question.

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  10. I remember reading or seeing one time a person comparing our utilitarian structures, like transmission towers, to the Roman ruins we see today. The idea was that those Roman ruins, like aqueducts, were utilitarian in those days, but we think of them as so impressive today. The writer was wondering if 2000 years from now people (assuming there are still people) will look at the ruins of our electrical transmission towers and think they such wonderful and impressive structures. I'm not certain about that, but it makes me wonder.

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    1. Mark-- I think there may be something we leave behind that might be impressive, but I just read an article the other day saying in all likelihood there will be a planetary disaster and there won't be a thing left. Think of something bigger and more disastrous than an asteroid and that's the future.

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  11. Sizzling! I wonder if all that electrical discharge is harmful? Years ago they said living beneath high-tension electrical wires was more likely to cause leukemia, but then I think that research was discredited.

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    1. Oh, I see Arkansas Patti's comment now -- no data to back up the cancer allegation -- but I agree keeping a safe distance is probably wise!

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    2. Steve-- I have often wondered the same thing about those sizzling wires when walk past them. Then I wonder about how far away we'd have to be to be safe, and if we are safe even when we're not in earshot. We have created a very interesting world, haven't we.

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  12. I heard it loud and clear. It's an eerie sound, isn't it? Out in mother nature, and we still don't escape technology. We all rely upon it, of course, but there's no escape.

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    1. Tara-- I'm hoping the next house we buy (oh yes, there's going to be another!) will have the southern exposure we need so we can generate our own power. At least we won't be relying exclusively on that sizzling power grid anymore. That's the dream.

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  13. so interesting that you hear it and roger did not. we all have such different frequencies of perception.

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    1. 37paddington-- Interestingly, Roger typically has better hearing than I do, but this high range is out of his range.

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