We know the Earth is warming. But some places have warmed up faster than others. Our changing climate is often illustrated with maps like this one from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. But visual representations are not the only way we can chart the geography of global warming. My name is Dan Crawford and I’m a student at the University of Minnesota. I’ve been working with Dr. Scott St. George, who’s a professor in the Department of Geography, to turn climate data into climate music. Our newest composition is called “Planetary Bands, Warming World’. It’s written for string quartet and uses all four instruments to describe the pace and the place of global warming. We’ve asked students from the University of Minnesota’s School of Music to perform the piece, and also to help explain how we turned 135 years of thermometer measurements into music.
Each instrument represents a specific part of the Northern Hemisphere. 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 pitch of each note is tuned to the average annual temperature in that region. So a really low note on the cello means the equatorial zone was cold that year. And a high note on the violin means warm weather stretching across the arctic. When we blend the four instruments, the four regions, together, you’re able to hear quite clearly, how temperatures fluctuate across the planet, ranging from the equator to the North Pole. And if we start the performance in 1880 and end it at the present, you can hear how much temperatures have increased and what places have warmed the most.