If you use data graphics and technical illustrations to explain climate change to most Americans, their eyes will glaze over. So University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford is trying a different approach. He’s using music to communicate the latest in climate science. Drawing on a method called “data sonification” that converts global temperature records into a series of musical notes, Crawford and his trusty cello have created “A Song of Our Warming Planet.” Here’s some of the technical backstory you need to know:
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.
Crawford has released the score and sound files under a Creative Commons license.
To delve deeper into what’s happening to our climate, we suggest you spend time with Global Warming: a free course from the University of Chicago.