# 7.1.6 Doppler Effect for Sound Waves

### Doppler Shift of Sound

• The whistle of a train or the siren of an ambulance appears to increase in frequency (sounds higher in pitch) as it moves away from you
• This frequency change due to the relative motion between a source of sound or light and an observer is known as the doppler effect (or doppler shift)
• When the observer (e.g. yourself) and the source of sound (e.g. ambulance siren) are both stationary, the waves are at the same frequency for both the observer and the source Stationary source and observer

• When the source starts to move towards the observer, the wavelength of the waves is shortened. The sound therefore appears at a higher frequency to the observer Moving source and stationary observer

• Notice how the waves are closer together between the source and the observer compared to point P and the source
• This also works if the source is moving away from the observer. If the observer was at point P instead, they would hear the sound at a lower frequency due to the wavelength of the waves broadening

• The frequency is increased when the source is moving towards the observer
• The frequency is decreased when the source is moving away from the observer

#### Worked example • If the cyclist is riding past the observer, the wavelength of sound waves are going to become longer
• This rules out options A and C
• A longer wavelength means a lower frequency (from the wave equation)
• Lower frequency creates a lower sound pitch
• Therefore, the answer is row D

### Calculating Doppler Shift

• When a source of sound waves moves relative to a stationary observer, the observed frequency can be calculated using the equation below: Doppler shift equation

• The wave velocity for sound waves is 340 ms-1
• The ± depends on whether the source is moving towards or away from the observer
• If the source is moving towards, the denominator is v – vs
• If the source is moving away, the denominator is v + vs

#### Exam Tip

Be careful as to which frequency and velocity you use in the equation. The ‘source’ is always the object which is moving and the ‘observer’ is always stationary. ### Author: Ashika

Ashika graduated with a first-class Physics degree from Manchester University and, having worked as a software engineer, focused on Physics education, creating engaging content to help students across all levels. Now an experienced GCSE and A Level Physics and Maths tutor, Ashika helps to grow and improve our Physics resources.
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