Climate change’s greatest hit: cellist writes song from NASA data

Using climate change data, a student has composed a song that illustrates how temperatures have risen since 1880

By Sophie Yeo

While data sets, graphs and charts work well for some as a way of communicating the changing climate, such a deluge of numbers may prove baffling for the less scientifically inclined.

Daniel Crawford, a student studying geography and environmental science at the University of Minnesota, has a solution.

Using his skills as a cellist, he has written a piece of music to illustrate how temperatures have risen over the past 100 years.

The composition, entitled ‘A Song of Our Warming Planet’, uses surface temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies as the basis of the music. Each figure represents a note, which Crawford has translated from graphs onto a stave.

The pitch of each note equates to the temperature – the higher the temperature, the higher the note – with halftone roughly equivalent to 0.03C of global warming.

“Climate scientists have a standard toolbox to communicate their data,” says Crawford.

“We’re trying to add another tool to that toolbox, another way to communicate these ideas to people who might get more out of music than maps, graphs and numbers.”

Crawford plays a note for every year from 1880 to 2012. The coldest year on record, 1909, is represented by the lowest note on a cello.

The video ends by highlighting that another 1.8C of warming would produce notes that are beyond the range of human hearing.

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