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130 years of global temperature data, converted to music

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By using global temperature data collected since 1880 and charting it to music, University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford has composed a unique cello piece he calls "A Song of Our Warming Planet."

"Climate scientists have a standard tool box to communicate their data," Crawford explains in the video above. "What we're trying to do is add another tool to that tool box, another way to communicate these ideas to the people who might get more out of this than out of maps, graphs and numbers."


Via Ensia:

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.

The result is a haunting sequence that traces the warming of our planet year by year since the late 19th century. During a run of cold years between the late 1800s and early 20th century, the cello is pushed towards the lower limit of its range. The piece moves into the mid-register to track the modest warming that occurred during the 1940s. As the sequence approaches the present, the cello reaches higher and higher notes, reflecting the string of warm years in the 1990s and 2000s.


Compelling stuff. Read more about the project here.

Hat tip to Liz!