The underwater soundscape of the North Sea

F Basan, J-G Fischer, R Putland, J Brinkkemper, C A F de Jong, B Binnerts, A Norro, D Kühnel, L-A Ødegaard, M Andersson, E Lalander, J Tougaard, E T Griffiths, M Kosecka, E Edwards, N D Merchant, K de Jong, S Robinson, L Wang, N Kinneging

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As awareness on the impact of anthropogenic underwater noise on marine life grows, underwater noise measurement programs are needed to determine the current status of marine areas and monitor long-term trends. The Joint Monitoring Programme for Ambient Noise in the North Sea (JOMOPANS) collaborative project was funded by the EU Interreg to collect a unique dataset of underwater noise levels at 19 sites across the North Sea, spanning many different countries and covering the period from 2019 to 2020. The ambient noise from this dataset has been characterised and compared - setting a benchmark for future measurements in the North Sea area. By identifying clusters with similar sound characteristics in three broadband frequency bands (25-160 Hz, 0.2-1.6 kHz, and 2-10 kHz), geographical areas that are similarly affected by sound have been identified. The measured underwater sound levels show a persistent and spatially uniform correlation with wind speed at high frequencies (above 1 kHz) and a correlation with the distance from ships at mid and high frequencies (between 40 Hz and 4 kHz). Correlation with ocean current velocity at low frequencies (up to 200 Hz), which are susceptible to nonacoustic contamination by flow noise, was also evaluated. These correlations were evaluated and simplified linear scaling laws for wind and current speeds were derived. The presented dataset provides a baseline for underwater noise measurements in the North Sea and shows that spatial variability of the dominant sound sources must be considered to predict the impact of noise reduction measures.

TidsskriftMarine Pollution Bulletin
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - jan. 2024


  • Soundscape
  • North Sea
  • Underwater acoustics
  • Monitering


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