In 2013, we featured Daniel Crawford, an undergrad at the University of Minnesota, playing “A Song of Our Warming Planet” on his cello. The song, produced in collaboration with geography professor Scott St. George, was created using a method called “data sonification,” which converts global temperature records into a series of musical notes. (More on that here.)
Now, two years later, we have a brand new video by Crawford and St. George. This one is a composition for a string quartet called “Planetary Bands, Warming World,” and it’s based on temperature data gathered over time by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. As Crawford explains in the video, “Each instrument represents a specific part of the Northern Hemisphere. The cello matches the temperature of the equatorial zone. The viola tracks the mid latitudes. The two violins separately follow temperatures in the high latitudes and in the arctic.” Each note’s pitch “is tuned to the average annual temperature in each region, so low notes represent cold years and high notes represent warm years.” As you listen, keep in mind one observation made by Prof. St. George says. “Listening to the violin climb almost the entire range of the instrument is incredibly effective at illustrating the magnitude of change — particularly in the Arctic which has warmed more than any other part of the planet.” The time period covered here moves from 1880 to present.