Making climate data sing: Using music-like sonifications to convey a key climate record

Scott St George, Daniel Crawford, Todd Reubold, Elizabeth Giorgi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A simple but flexible sonification procedure to transform one or more climate time series into a sequence of musical notes was developed by the University of Minnesota's School of Music. The first step was to choose an instrument which determined the range of pitches available. Next, the minimum value in the climate data time series was assigned to a note close to the bottom of the instrument's playable range. At the other extreme, the maximum value in the climate record (the hottest year) was set to a note close to the upper limit of the instrument. All other observations were converted into musical tones based on their relative value between the two extremes. Once the conversion scheme was finalized, the notes were arranged in chronological order, setting the beat unit in the composition to be equal to the time interval resolved by the data. The first 'climate music' composition, titled A Song of Our Warming Planet, was released on June 28, 2013. The Global Land�Ocean Temperature Index was mapped across three octaves, with the coldest year on record (1909) set to the lowest note on the cello (C2). Each note in the composition represented one year, ordered from 1880 to 2012 while its pitch reflected the mean temperature of the planet relative to the 1951�1980 base period. The second composition in this series used an expanded set of instruments to add a geographic dimension to our musical expression of global warming. The sequel, Planetary Bands, Warming World, which was released on May 7, 2015, assigned each zone in the Northern Hemisphere to one member of a string quartet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-27
Number of pages5
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017


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