Singing Sand Dunes

By Anupum Pant

I cannot say why you’d do it, but suppose you were on a hike to the top of a 120 feet sand dune in the centre of some desert, say  near Al-Askharah, a coastal town in Oman. Unfortunately, it’s also the mid summer time, with 50 degree Celsius winds blowing at 50 miles an hour, and the dune you are climbing has a slope of 30 degrees. There’s nothing else (besides sand) to be seen or heard for miles around you.

The numbers are apparently perfect for a very eerie phenomenon to occur. And then the whole desert suddenly cries out a booming chorus of a very low hum (Like someone playing a very low note on the cello). What could have possibly caused that?

For ages such sounds in the midst of empty deserts have been bewildering people. Marco polo mentioned it. Charles Darwin also wrote about the “Bellower” in The Voyage of the Beagle. Moreover, until recently, even modern scientists weren’t sure what caused these sounds. It was only during the year 2009 that things started becoming clear when a group of researchers started experiments with sand on an incline in a laboratory environment.

The low droning hums, now as we know, come from within the sand dunes. The Sand particles are blown by the wind, causing an avalanche. As the sand falls across the 30 degree incline of the dune, they vibrate, synchronise and send the vibrations into the dune. The dunes pick up these tiny synchronised vibrations and amplify them, causing the low droning hum; coherent enough to resemble musical notes.

This only happens at few places around the world. In Morocco the dunes cry out an echoing hum of 105 hertz. Whereas in Oman the sands create a mixture of frequencies ranging from low 90 to slightly less low, 150 hertz. Something similar is also heard in the death valley. The video explains…

The Hottest Place on Earth – Not Death Valley!

By Anupum Pant

For years I’ve known that the death valley was the hottest place on earth. Of course, not counting the lava, laboratory furnaces, hot springs and other such smart-ass answers, the death valley has always been, in textbooks and beyond, the hottest place on our planet.

On July 10th 1913, the temperature there was measured to be around 56.7 degrees centigrade. Nowhere else has the mercury risen to such high levels since then. Or so we thought…

Until, like always, a science channel from YouTube – MinuteEarth – decided to dive in a little deeper.

This is what the weather statistics do when they measure the temperature – The temperature outdoors are measured in shade at about 1.5 meters above the ground. Of course they had a standard procedure set to do that, and there must be a solid reason for that.

But, practically, who are we kidding. Anyone who has been on a beach, barefoot on a sunny day knows how hot the surface of sand can get in the sun, right?

The data from NASA’s satellites equipped with spectroradiometers has a different story to tell. A place somewhere in the Lut desert in Iran is the winner. The temperature averaged in a 1 square kilometre by the satellite shows that temperatures here have reached a whooping 70.7 degree Celsius. The place is somewhere inside the blue circle I made on Google maps.

 lut desert hottest place on earth

You could literally cook eggs in the open there. Anyway, that isn’t totally new. Mr. Sargunaraj claims to have cooked an egg on the streets of Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu, India too. And I’ve also seen a video of a restaurant serving eggs cooked in the open (without fuel).

An 8000 km Long African Man-Made Forest

By Anupum Pant

The only desert larger than Sahara is a whole continent which is a desert – Antarctica. But Antarctica, unlike Africa’s desert, isn’t becoming bigger every year. It’s only the Sahara among these two which grows as time passes.

So, the expanding Sahara desert poses a great problem for the future generations of the southern nations (Sahel region) towards which it comes creeping. At least the ones just south of the Sahara desert, as the UN suggests, must be ready to face a hard life in the future.

Unless, an extremely ambitious and selfless plan being pushed for the good life of future generations, by a group of eleven African nations becomes a success.

The eleven nations across the African continent which stand to face the peril with a solid plan in place are Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

They have all come together and decided to create a massive Great Green Wall of Africa – a 15 km (9 miles) wide wall of man-made forest home to millions of drought resistant trees, stretching across the continent for about 8000 km (~5000 miles)! If complete, this is what it will look like.

The great green wall of africa

Since 2008, after spending about 6 million dollars, the enterprising leaders of Senegal, were able to finish a 330 mile long man-made forest. However in other nations where “short-termism” (to feed the present families) has taken priority over long-term good (of the future generations), the project faces a problem. Other problems like rebel groups, drought and famine doesn’t let this happen very easily.

The world bank has pledged 2 billion dollars for this massive project. If this great African dream does succeed, it will carry a huge lesson for all humans across the world to learn.

I earnestly hope it does succeed.

via [AtlasObscura]