“Booming” sand dunes have a remarkable capacity to produce sounds that are comparable with those from a stringed instrument. This phenomenon, in which sound is generated after an avalanching of sand along the slip face of a dune, has been known for centuries and occurs in at least 40 sites around the world. A spectral analysis of the sound shows a dominant frequency between 70 and 110 Hz, as well as higher harmonics. Depending on the location and time of year, the sound may continue for several minutes, even after the avalanching of sand has ceased. This review presents historical observations and explanations of the sound, many of which contain accurate and insightful descriptions of the phenomenon. In addition, the review describes recent work that provides a scientific explanation for this natural mystery, which is caused by sound resonating in a surface layer of the dune.

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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