National Park Service Releases 'Loudness' Map

Analyzes levels of noise pollution around the country

Feb 19, 2015
Outside Magazine
national park service natural sounds and night skies division

The darkest areas on the map are the quietest.    NPS Natural Sounds and Night Skies

In an effort to gauge noise levels throughout the United States, the National Park Service’s (NPS) Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division has created a map showing how much ambient noise you can expect to deal with based on where you are in the country. Not surprisingly, metropolitan areas are by far the loudest, but their noise can spill over into wild places.

Scientists from the NPS presented their map at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting on Monday. According to CBS News, the NPS took 1.5 million hours worth of noise measurements at 546 park sites across the country to create its map. The bright yellow areas, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Dallas, are the loudest, while the dark blue regions, like Yellowstone National Park, are the quietest.

Even though national parks aren’t as loud as cities, senior scientist Kurt Fristrup wrote that “noise and light issues span much of the continent,” an increasing concern for the NPS. “Parks are experiencing an ongoing acoustic assault by everything from air tours to maintenance equipment,” according to the Park Service. “Such noise affects visitors’ perceptions of solitude and tranquility.” It’s also affecting the wildlife, forcing them to adapt their hunting and mating behaviors, according to CityLab. The NPS hopes this data will help spur improvements.

“Unlike many other forms of environmental degradation, sound and light offer opportunities for rapid improvement,” Fristrup told CBS News.