The Soundtrack of Climate Change

A college student uses music to depict rising temperatures from 1880 to 2012

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As people in the Midwest and the East Coast broil in blistering temperatures, they’re reminded of how it might relate to global warming. But rather than using big data to relay the effects of climate change, a University of Minnesota undergrad is illustrating the point with his cello.

Through a process referred to as data sonification, Daniel Crawford used global annual surface air temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and converted it into a range of musical notes. The result, “A Song of Warming Our Planet,” is an ode to rising temperatures from 1880 to 2012, with each note marking a year in a powerful sequence that emphasizes an alarming escalation. The lower notes signify cooler periods while high notes indicate warmer years. Warmer temperatures begin to appear more frequently during the 1940s, culminating with higher, sharper and eerier notes throughout the 1990s and 200s.

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Indeed, according to data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2012 marked one of the 10 hottest years on record since 1850, with temperatures above average for a consecutive 36 years.

Crawford explained the idea is to create a new tool for scientists in conveying the need to address climate change. The video furthers the point by concluding  that scientists predict earth will warm up at least another 1.8 degrees celsius by the end of the century, which in data sonification would create a scale of notes beyond the range of human hearing.

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