Ending on a High Note (Perhaps Too High)

Climate data gets a musical makeover.

July 28, 2015

Last week, NASA announced that the first six months of this year were the warmest first half of any year on record, and 2015 is doing its damnedest to challenge 2014 for the title of “hottest year in recorded history.” That’s some seriously heavy news, but seeing chart after chart of steadily rising trend lines isn’t always the most poignant (or original) way to convey the problem to the masses. So two years ago, Daniel Crawford, an undergrad at the University of Minnesota, decided to try putting global warming in more emotionally resonant terms.

Working with his geography professor Scott St. George, Crawford used “data sonification” to convert NASA surface-temperature data into cello music. Each year between 1880 and 2012 corresponds to one note, its pitch determined by the average temperature (higher = hotter). The result, “A Song of Our Warming Planet,” is a whole new way to face the music of our fossil-fuel habit.


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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