Do you hear a "sizzling" sound when walking under power lines in Grand Junction? For the most part, you tend to hear this sound in the colder months. Why do they do that?

If you walk along certain parts of the Riverfront Trail, you'll pass underneath power lines. If it's cold, or if the humidity is high, you can hear what almost sounds like bacon frying. Did some poor little chipmunk accidentally touch the wrong wire and find itself on the receiving end of 65,000 volts? Is the power "cooking" the moisture in the air? What's going on up there?

According to, the answer is simple. Put on your thinking cap and check out this explanation:

The sound comes from moisture on the wires themselves and in the air around them. The strength of the electric field around a narrow cylindrical conductor (e.g., any wire) is highest right at the surface of the conductor, and with high-tension transmission lines, it can reach the point where it ionizes the air itself. This is known as corona discharge. It happens all the time, but when the air and wires are dry, it doesn't produce any sound. -

Okay, from where I stand, that was not so simple. I took dummy classes in high school. The physics classes I took in college didn't necessarily involve much in the way of math.

If the explanation above was understood, the activity taking place in the wires is always the same, but when there's moisture on the wires, a sound is produced.

The next time Grand Junction experiences rain or snow, or the next time you can take a walk when there's still frost out, find power lines and take a listen. It really is cool.

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