Can We Hear The Sound of Our Warming Planet?

Does it sound weird for you? Great you are not alone. I had the same reaction but guys from University of Minnesota combined music and environmental data.

It is not new that our planer is warming.  Ok, lets stand on the shoulders of giants (I hate when someone uses those quotes and I don’t know where it came from). In 2010 J. Hansen and his fellows scientific friends published an article at Reviews of Geophysics. They used the Goddard Institute for  Space Studies (GISS) (NASA) analysis of global surface temperature change. Yes, there are different groups of scientists doing different analysis of global temperatures. So when you hear someone saying: “scientists said that average global temperature is rising”, it is a specific group using some specific data (not always they work together). However these analysis are not totally independent because they must use much the same information (same satellites,  meteorological stations, etc). Roughly speaking, they complete each other.

So, Dr. J. Hansen and his fellows scientific friends defined “normal” or average temperature using the years of 1951 to 1980 as base period (which is also the period that many of today’s adults grew up, so they can remember what climate was like then). They  took into account some pitfalls as for example if the stations were located in or near urban areas (the human-made structures and energy sources can cause a substantial local warming that affects measurements, so this local warming must be corrected)  and if the stations changed its elevation (if the change is significant the temperature must be corrected because changes in elevation could lead to changes in temperature). They concluded that:

…there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15°C-0.20°C per decade that began in the late 1970s.

Using a technique called sonification, Daniel Crawford (this guy on the video) and professor Scott St. George  converted global temperature records into a series of musical notes. They used the surface temperature data from GISS which is commonly illustrated visually with line plots or maps. Crawford made his composition mapping the temperature data over a range of three octaves. Each note represents a year, ordered from 1880 to 2012, with the coldest year on record (1909) set to the lowest note on the cello (open C). Each ascending halftone is equal to roughly 0.03°C of planetary warming. Low notes represent relatively cool years, while high notes signify relatively warm ones.

Public opinion about climate change tends to be strongly influenced by recent and ongoing weather. For example, Northern Hemisphere winter (December, January, and February) of 2009-2010 was unusually cool in the United States and northern Eurasia.  Thus, the cool weather contributed to increased public skepticism about the concept of “global warming”. However June, July, and August 2009 were second warmest (behind June, July, and August 1998) and December, January, and February 2009-2010 were second warmest (behind December, January, and February 2006-2007). Although it is possible to see similar cool conditions in the future, the likelihood of such event is decreasing and it will continue to decrease as global warming continues to increase. It is important to remember that in most of the cases the conclusions on the papers are also opinions from the scientists. Thus even the scientists are expressing their opinions and their publications are not absolute truth. From Dr. J. Hansen and his fellows scientific friends:

Our comments here about communication of this climate change science to the public are our opinion. Other people may have quite different opinions. We offer our opinion because it seems inappropriate to ignore the vast range of claims appearing in the media and in hopes that open discussion of these matters may help people distinguish the reality of global change sooner than would otherwise be the case. However, these comments, even though based on experience over a few decades, are only opinion.

It is possible that Dr. J. Hansen and his fellows scientific friends have enough experience to draw plausible conclusions about the problem through their opinions. And you? after listen the music, What is your opinion? I’d love to hear that.

 More information:

A Song of Our Warming Planet

Journal References:

Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo (2010), Global surface temperature change, Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004, doi:10.1029/2010RG000345

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