Scientists previously thought the sound arose because avalanching sand created vibrations in the more stable underlayers of the dunes. But evidence that the avalanche of sand itself sings, not the dunes, emerged from experiments in 2009 by researchers who got a shallow pile of sand to sing while spilling down a laboratory incline. Now, the same research team has investigated a deeper mystery of the dunes -- how multiple notes can sound simultaneously from one dune.
To study this question, physicist Simon Dagois-Bohy and his fellow researchers at Paris Diderot University in France recorded two different dunes: one near Tarfaya, a port town in southwestern Morocco, and one near Al-Askharah, a coastal town in southeastern Oman. No matter where recordings were made near the Moroccan dune, the sands sang consistently at about 105 hertz, in the neighborhood of G-sharp two octaves below middle C. The Omani sands also sang powerfully, but sometimes unleashed a cacophony of almost every possible frequency from 90 to 150 hertz, or about F-sharp to D, a range of nine notes.
These two sand dunes both "sing" when sand rolls down their sides. But they sing quite differently. For full story behind these dunes, see: