science environment

Climate Data Sonification

By Toni Tabora-Roberts (OPB)
Jan. 29, 2014 4 p.m.
Cellist and University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford worked with a geology professor to put climate data to music.

Cellist and University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford worked with a geology professor to put climate data to music.

Elizabeth Giorgi

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Bill Chameides posted on his Conservation Magazine blog this week about how art has the power to help people visualize environmental change in a more visceral way than the traditional charts or graphs.

While his piece primarily focused on performance artist Eve Mosher's HighWaterLine Project (in which she "drew a line across the city marking the 10-foot contour above sea level, an elevation that corresponds closely with the reach of a 100-year flood"), he later mentioned a video which I thought was worth sharing.

Cellist and University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford and geology professor Scott St. George came up with an interesting idea: put climate data to music.

Ensia describes the project:

Data visualizations are effective for some people, but they aren't the best way to reach everyone," says St. George. "Instead of giving people something to look at, Dan's performance gives them something they can feel." Crawford based his composition on surface temperature data from NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The temperature data were mapped over a range of three octaves, with the coldest year on record (–0.47 °C in 1909) set to the lowest note on the cello (open C). Each ascending halftone is equal to roughly 0.03°C of planetary warming. In Crawford's composition, each note represents a year, ordered from 1880 to 2012. The pitch reflects the average temperature of the planet relative to the 1951–80 base line. Low notes represent relatively cool years, while high notes signify relatively warm ones.

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Here's Ensia's video of Crawford performing "A Song For Our Warming Planet:"

Incidentally, this isn't the Goddard Institute's first foray into unusual climate change communications. They recently participated in a pretty sexy Climate Models Calendar (sexy for science anyways) featuring gussied-up climate scientists on backdrops representing their area of study.

Have you seen other creative projects that explain climate science and data in a non-traditional way?

-- Toni Tabora-Roberts


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