Second Annual AMS Student Conference


Music from the ocean: sonification of ocean buoy spectral data

Bob L. Sturm, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA

The Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP) has been collecting data on ocean wave conditions since late 1975, first using arrays of pressure sensors, and more recently directional buoys. Fourier analysis of the data reveals the spectral and directional content of the wave-driven motions measured by the buoy. Shifting the spectrum to an audible range and synthesizing a time-domain signal creates an aurally interesting and illuminating sonification of ocean wave dynamics.

Examples of ocean buoy spectral data sonification are presented, each illustrating important aspects of physical oceanography. The obvious sonic events are the effects of energy from storms, both local and far away. From the sonification one can estimate the energy of the storm, and the distance it originated. Entire years of data have been sonified in one to thirty minute durations for buoys in different regions, which demonstrate dramatic seasonal and regional differences. Also displayed are the time-lags of wave-train onsets at three distantly separated points on the West Coast of the United States.

Although much of this information can be derived from graphs the sonification enhances the experience of the dataset. Its value as a pedagogical tool for understanding concepts from physical oceanography is demonstrable. Listeners have commented on its ability to engage their curiosity of the phenomena. A full-length interactive CD is now for sale showing these methods. Further information is at

Poster Session 5, Observations/Remote Sensing
Sunday, 9 February 2003, 5:30 PM-7:30 PM

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