A Song of Our Warming Planet: Cellist Daniel Crawford

Screen shot from video University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford from Ensia, a magazine and event series showcasing environmental solutions in action sponsored by the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota directed by Jon Foley.  Additional support came from the College of Liberal Arts, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and the School of Music at the University of Minnesota. Video production by Elizabeth Giorgi. Sound recording and engineering by Michael Duffy.


Daniel Crawford (email) decided to use his cello to communicate climate science by  using data sonification to create "A Song of Our Warming Planet."

During an internship, geography professor Scott St. George asked Crawford about the possibility of turning into music a set of data on surface temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

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 and each note represents a year, in order from 1880 to 2012. 

As the sequence approaches the present, the cello reaches higher and higher notes, reflecting the string of warm years in the 1990s and 2000s. The video ends with a stark message:

Scientists predict the planet will warm by another 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. This additional warming would produce a series of notes beyond the range of human hearing.
As Jess Zimmerman (twitter), wrote for GristList July 1,
That’s a dog whistle we should probably heed.
h/t my friend anthropologist Betsy Taylor (bio) via Appalnet.