One year ago, in February 2006, National Geographic magazine contained an article about the dramatic symptoms of climate change in the Alps—the shrinking glaciers. Below is a short part of that article pertaining to the problems with noise:
Seventy-seven million tons of cargo move through the mountains in an average year: furniture, chemicals, livestock, mineral water, automobiles. By 2020, some predict, trans-Alpine commercial transport will double.
The mountains concentrate the fumes and noise from all these vehicles. The emissions are trapped in narrow valleys where the wind doesn't reliably reach, and the upper layer of warmer air at night creates a cap to hold them down. Their carbon dioxide is a contributor to global warming.
As for noise, the same principle that makes the deep notes of the alphorn resonate up and down a valley works just as well for the engines of big trucks.
Their maddening buzz-saw whine can be muted horizontally by the sound barriers that have been added to many highways, but there is no way to block the sound that the valley walls echo and carry upward.
"Noise you'd barely hear on the flatland at a distance of 400 metres carries up to 2,000 metres in the mountains," said Dr. Klaus Rhomberg of Doctors for the Environment in Innsbruck. This constant under-noise raises blood pressure, shreds nerves, may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and impairs children's ability to concentrate.
Standing on a bluff above Sauze d'Oulx, one of the Olympic skiing venues in Italy, gave me a great view of the valley—or rather two halves of a valley bisected by the motorway snaking toward France via the Fre'jus Tunnel. I was more than 1,100 feet above the highway, and the noise of the traffic was just as grating, and possibly louder, than it had been all night a hundred yards away from my hotel window in Bardonecchia.