What Climate Change Sounds Like

A musicologist and a climatologist create a soundtrack for glacier melt.

A climatologist has teamed up with a musicologist to translate data from decades of glacial ice melt in Greenland into music.

City College of New York music professor Jonathan Perl partnered with CUNY earth and atmospheric science professor Marco Tedesco to represent albedo ratio data as sound. The albedo ratio is a measure of how reflective or white a surface is (albedo means ‘white’ in latin). In this case, more snow cover means a higher albedo. So Perl took different albedo measures and transformed them into specific instruments and sounds — bells, droplets, etc.— to give glacier activity a voice. In one sonification, a choir sounds almost angelic singing in a high airy tone, but as the albedo level drops–mirroring ice melt over the years–the choir starts to sound like an evil chanting cult. Take a listen:

Perl hopes that his collaboration with Tedesco will touch a more emotional nerve among listeners. Could the glacier songs melt hearts with their mournful melody?

Mother Jones