From Iceland — Mystery Solved? A Scientist Responds To Our "Mysterious Ghost Sounds" Story

Mystery Solved? A Scientist Responds To Our “Mysterious Ghost Sounds” Story

Published August 13, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Yesterday, we reported that residents of the North Iceland town of Akureyri were positively haunted by mysterious sounds that they could not rightly explain. Today, we have received an email from an atmospheric scientist that offers a plausible explanation.

In the original story, it is reported that for years now, Akureyri residents have been confronted by an eerie howling noise that appears from time to time. Recordings have been made and shared on social media in the hopes of getting to the bottom of this.

“It’s really indescribably annoying, that’s really the only word over it,” musician Kristján Edelstein said. “It’s a persistent sound that doesn’t change pitch. The only thing I know is that I have been sleep deprived over this for two nights now and have talked to many people and everyone agrees that it’s always the same tone.”

Steven M. Battaglia, a general science writer for ResearchGate, wrote to us to offer a possible—and fairly convincing—explanation:

“I looked into the atmospheric conditions at the time of the strange Akureyri noise being heard by residents. It seems that a possible temperature inversion in the atmosphere occurred at the time the noise was heard.

“A temperature inversion occurs when warmer air moves into a region on the surface, but the temperature aloft (above the boundary layer or above the lowest 1-2 km of atmosphere) remains colder. When this occurs, sound waves from far away noises can refract off this temperature inversion towards the ground and be heard at the surface some distances away.

“Iceland had a low pressure system to the west of the country that brought warmer temperatures to Akureyri. The air aloft in Akureyri may have had cooler temperatures brought southward from the arctic with a high pressure that was northeast of the city. This would be a possible explanation for the temperature inversion. A noise in the distance, whether that be the tunnel or another industrial activity, could be refracted to generate that low hum heard within the region.”

This explanation certainly sounds convincing enough to us; perhaps the residents of Akureyri can sleep a little easier now.

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