Climate Data Sonification Project

What does data sound like?
What if you could hear the earth warming?

134 Years of Global Temperature Change in 14 Seconds • For Orchestra and Piano

by Nelson Guda | Threshold

Threshold • The Sound of a Changing Climate

Threshold is a data art project about our changing climate. When I was working in the sciences I analyzed a great deal of long-term climate data for a project about the potential impact of climate on species. Over the last century, we have gathered a staggering, massive amount of climate data. The data, like most data, is numbers. Scientists look at numbers in graphs and tables, but as an artist I wanted to experiment with showing this data in non-traditional ways such as sound. The audio pieces in this page are all created directly from real climate data – direct temperature readings, CO2 measurements, and ice-core derived temperature data. I convert the data into notes and score the notes for a variety of instruments.

In the first piece, “134 Years of Global Temperature Change in 14 Seconds • For Orchestra and Piano • For Orchestra and Piano,” the piano notes are the annual temperature data from 1850 – 2015, the orchestra plays chords made of the minimum, mean and maximum temperatures for eight year intervals over that time period.

The CO2 data for the next two pieces are measurements taken from the atmosphere atop Mauna Loa peak in Hawaii, converted the data into notes and scored them for voice and instruments. The monthly CO2 measurements go up and down throughout the year, as trees in the northern hemisphere lose their leaves in the winter and regrow them in the summer, but throughout the history of the measurements, from 1959 to 2015, the CO2 has been higher with each passing year.

The data for “1000 years of Antarctic Ice core temperature reconstructions • Scored for Three Cellos” comes from three separate reconstructions of 1000 year temperature that are derived from measuring CO2 trapped in air bubbles inside ice from deep in the Antarctic ice sheets.

Threshold, the project title, comes from the debate over whether there is a threshold in the climate system – a point beyond which reversing any changes becomes impossible. This project is active and expanding. Check back here for new works, or subscribe to my blog.

The Modern CO2 Record in 22 seconds

by Nelson Guda | Threshold

Threshold 1 • Monthly Recorded CO2 Records (1959 – 2015). Scored for instrument and voice. (3:00 min)

by Nelson Guda | Threshold

1000 years of Antarctic Ice core temperature reconstructions • Scored for Three Cellos (1:03 mins)

by Nelson Guda | Threshold

Threshold Audio Player 

Carbonized Wood, Coal, Feather, Audio Player

The Threshold audio player was the first work that I exhibited from the project. The player is designed to be held in your hand so that your skin is in contact with the carbonized wood of the piece while you are listening to the audio. The feather in the piece represents this concept of a potentially delicate balance in a system that we are rapidly changing.