Press Release Sep 18, 2020

US Navy analysis finds Growler jet noise in Olympic National Park exceeds 100 decibels

Navy's own analysis reveals that jet noise can be as loud as a handheld drill for visitors in the famously tranquil park, which is home to perhaps the quietest place in the United States

Seattle, WA – The US Navy’s own analysis into the noise pollution caused by military jets on training exercises over Olympic National Park has found that the sound of jets flying overhead can be as loud as the sound of a handheld drill for visitors within the park.

The analysis, revealed as part of the Navy’s 2020 final supplemental environmental impact statement, finds that the maximum noise levels heard on the ground are between 81.5 decibels (dBA) and 100.6dB. These noise levels are roughly equivalent to a garbage disposal (80dbA) and a handheld drill (100dbA).

Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time can damage hearing. More than 2,200 Growler flights take place each year over Olympic national park, an average of six a day. The Navy currently plans to increase the number of Growler training flights that take place over the park.

Rob Smith, northwest regional director at the National Parks Conservation Association, said:

“This analysis confirms, by the Navy’s own admission, that the training flights it operates over the peninsula can be as loud as a garbage disposal or a handheld drill for people on the ground. 

“Olympic National Park is famous for its quiet tranquility. The sound of military jets buzzing the park at dangerous noise levels does not belong.

“Instead of increasing the number of flights, the Navy should look to find a far more suitable location to conduct these training flights where park visitors, wildlife and peninsula residents will not be routinely disturbed.”

The analysis found:   

  • The maximum Growler noise levels within the park are between 81.5dBA and 100.6dBA. The equivalent of a garbage disposal conditioner to a handheld drill.
  • The maximum noise level at Mount Olympus is between 75dBA and 91dBA. The equivalent of a dishwasher to a lawn mower.  
  • The maximum noise level at Hoh Rain Forest visitor center is between 52dBA and 67dBA. The equivalent of a refrigerator to a dishwasher. Hoh Rain Forest is the site of what has been called the ‘quietest place in the US’ by sound experts.
  • More than 4,400 Growler flights take place each year over Olympic national park, an average of 12 per day.
  • According to the way in which the Department of Defense assesses noise impacts, noise levels at more than 75dbA are incompatible for most land use.

The analysis also confirmed that military operations areas, in which training flights typically take place, areas are generally established over “isolated rural areas that have the least impact on highly populated areas.”

Olympic National Park is the most visited national park in the Northwest, attracting more than 3 million visitors annually.