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Is the air louder in the winter?
June 2, 2011 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Is the sound of blowing warm humid summer air quieter than cold winter air, or is it just my imagination that it is much louder to open the car windows in the winter?
posted by smackfu to Science & Nature (8 answers total)
 
Contrary to what you might think, humid air is lighter than dry air. Hot and humid air would be doubly thinner than cold dry air. Maybe the thicker air is louder.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:48 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, sound travels better through denser air... so better through cold air than through warm air. But also better through humid air than dry air. Not sure which wins out in cold & dry vs hot & humid though, sorry!
posted by Grither at 6:48 AM on June 2, 2011


Ok then, scratch that, winter wins in volume!
posted by Grither at 6:49 AM on June 2, 2011


BTW I did a test with my hairdryer but it is cheap and runs the motor faster when you press the cold button (due to diverting the heater coil energy).
posted by smackfu at 7:09 AM on June 2, 2011


Maybe the car engine runs louder in the winter??? There are other factors in sound volume from an open car window. Driving adjacent a jersey barrier, for example, will reflect more sound from your car and will be louder. Anything nearby will also do the same.
posted by JJ86 at 7:19 AM on June 2, 2011


In summer, at least where I live, there's a lot more foliage and greenery that may dampen ambient sounds. In winter, surfaces tend to be hard and will reflect more noise, plus there's more open space for sound to travel unencumbered.
posted by bassjump at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2011


I suspect that the difference in the volume is there (one way or another) but it's such a small effect that you'd never be able to tell without back-to-back listening, which is unlikely. Maybe in winter things are generally quieter in your normal environment (closed windows, fewer fans running, less time spent outdoors) and opening the car window comes as a big shock to the system.

Snow and foliage definitely mute sound, fwiw. I can't hear traffic on the highway 2 miles away after a big storm, and it's definitely quieter in summer than on a non-snowy winter day.
posted by pjaust at 11:01 AM on June 2, 2011


I have noticed that it is also louder to open the windows a crack than to open them all the way - I think that it creates more turbulence? Maybe you are more likely to open the windows wider when it's warm.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:29 PM on June 2, 2011


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