From the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment comes this gem of public awareness messaging:
“For Scott St. George, Institute on the Environment resident fellow and University of Minnesota geography professor, teaching people about climate science is music to his ears, literally.
“St. George, College of Liberal Arts undergraduate student Daniel Crawford and IonE director of communications Todd Reubold shared their experience of reaching new audiences by turning climate science data into music in last week’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture, “Resonate! How 90 Seconds of Cello Music is Helping People Connect with Climate Science.”
“In A Song of Our Warming Planet, Crawford translated the global temperature measurement data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies into a musical score and played it on his cello, providing an audible depiction of global warming. The goal, according to St. George, was to find a new way to communicate scientific data beyond tables and graphs.
” “I teach a big, introductory environmental sciences class,” St. George said. “This class has about 500 students in it. To be honest, it’s a difficult environment to get people’s attention; it’s hard to communicate what I want to share with students in this big class. So I’m always thinking about ways that I can reach students in this setting and reach them a little more effectively.” “ Link
“Crawford based his composition on surface temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The temperature data were mapped over a range of three octaves, 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.
“…each note represents a year, ordered from 1880 to 2012. The pitch reflects the average temperature of the planet relative to the 1951–80 base line. Low notes represent relatively cool years, while high notes signify relatively warm ones.
“The result is a haunting sequence that traces the warming of our planet year by year since the late 19th century. During a run of cold years between the late 1800s and early 20th century, the cello is pushed towards the lower limit of its range. The piece moves into the mid-register to track the modest warming that occurred during the 1940s. As the sequence approaches the present, the cello reaches higher and higher notes, reflecting the string of warm years in the 1990s and 2000s.
“Crawford hopes other researchers and artists will use or adapt his composition to support science outreach, and has released the score and sound files under a Creative Commons license.
” “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.”
“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.
The full presentation can be watched online here.