Listen to 133 years of climate change in one evocative song

“Planetary Bands, Warming World,” by Daniel Crawford.
Video screen capture “Planetary Bands, Warming World" video by Ensia

While charts and maps are great ways of communicating how humans are changing the global temperature, there are other avenues to help people connect with climate science and understand its findings.

Daniel Crawford, an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, has created a particularly evocative way of connecting people with climate data through music. He collaborated with geography professor Scott St. George to turn climate data from four latitudinal regions of the globe into a musical composition for a string quartet.

Using data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the work “Planetary Bands, Warming World,” tells the story of how the climate is changing in different parts of the world with each instrument representing a different band of the globe. As Crawford explains in the video, “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.”

The sound of climate change from the Amazon to the Arctic from Ensia on Vimeo.

The music is performed by four other University of Minnesota students: Julian Maddox on first violin, Jason Shu on second violin, Alastair Witherspoon on viola and Nigel Witherspoon on cello.

This is not Crawford and St. George’s first climate-themed and data-inspired musical composition. In 2013, they released “A Song of Our Warming Planet,” which translated 130 years of the average global temperature into music for the cello. Crawford performed the music himself.

A Song of Our Warming Planet from Ensia on Vimeo.

The first composition told a simple global story, while the newer one offers a more nuanced and complicated picture. Yet both sing a similar song: temperatures are rising. We hope many listeners will hear the message.

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