How loud is too loud?

How loud is too loud?
Caroline Charron
Caroline Charron
Sales Manager, Urban and Industrial Systems, Weather and Environment
Environmental and Public Health Protection
Weather & Environment

How one company is helping to solve the challenges of urban noise pollution

On a typical weekday morning, I can hear birds, cars, lawn equipment, and the occasional airplane. I don’t even think about the noise unless I really need silence for some reason – that’s when I realize how noisy and distracting it can be to live in an urban area.

However, environmental noise is more than just distracting. It has been proven to harm human health and is considered a pollutant much like air pollution. So where is all this noise coming from? From just about everything involved in urban societies: transportation, infrastructure, industry, construction – even leisure activities like blaring music.

Here are some quick facts according to the European Environment Agency:
• At least 100 million people in Europe are exposed to harmful levels of environmental noise pollution, leading to 48,000 new cases of heart disease every year in Europe.
• One million healthy years of life are lost every year due to the effects of noise on health, including annoyance, sleep disturbance, and ischemic heart disease.

Analyzing the noise level

Just like air pollution, weather affects the concentration and movement of noise across the surrounding areas. The temperature could have an impact but it is especially the rain and the wind speed that can influence noise levels measurements.

This is where Acoem – an environmental monitoring provider – is helping. Industries and cities use Acoem’s cloud-based noise and vibration monitoring to characterize the soundscape for construction site planning, scenario evaluation, and new impact studies. 

Utilizing data from Vaisala’s weather sensors, Acoem cross-analyzes noise levels with weather measurement data to provide information that helps decision-makers. Providing decision makers synchronized data with weather conditions, acoustics, and vibration is necessary to offer an exhaustive clear view of the impact of any noise pollutant. They can also take actionable steps to mitigate and measure the results for more sustainable operations that reduce the impact to nearby residents. 

Acoem uses Vaisala Weather Transmitter WXT530 in their data collection and evaluation process, which is instrumental in verifying the sources of noise.  Without a Vaisala weather transmitter, experts would have to do their analyses based on inadequate measurement data especially regarding rainy, windy, and stormy conditions. 

WXT530 is part of a unique collection of sensors that can capture the most important weather parameters in a compact, affordable package. The durable sensor has no moving parts and requires little to no maintenance. Featuring unique Vaisala solid state sensor technology, WXT530 includes WINDCAP® ultrasonic wind sensors to determine horizontal wind speed and direction, an easy-to-change PTU module using the capacitive BAROCAP® sensor for barometric pressure, HUMICAP® R2 sensor for humidity, resistive platinum sensor for air temperature, and acoustic RAINCAP® sensor to measure precipitation without flooding, clogging, wetting, or evaporation losses.

Smart city application

Here's an example: at the center of one client city, Acoem set up several smart poles to measure weather, environmental noise, air quality, water quality, and traffic including a CCTV camera for observations. By integrating this information, the city has an innovative way of linking noise exposure and life expectation reduction. Plugging weather data into these kinds of networks opens also many opportunities to increase weather awareness and resilience in cities.

It is surprising and inspiring to see that our modern world is recognizing and acting on all forms of pollution, including noise. Now if I can just get the birds outside my window to let me focus, I’ll look forward to a quieter and less distracting future.

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