Inspire

The Sound of Rising Carbon Levels is Surprisingly Hypnotic

Scientists have loaded carbon dioxide data into Apple software, and the result is trance-inducing. You might want to turn down the volume before you listen!

Although the human-caused climate change soundtrack might remind some of Super Mario or a nineties techno record, it actually maps musical notes to a 58-year record of carbon dioxide measured high in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

The combination of the carbon dioxide data set known as the Keeling Curve and Apple’s GarageBand music editing software has resulted in a somewhat hypnotic tune that gets increasingly frantic as carbon levels rise.

Listen to the soundtrack, look at the image below and repeat after us: “I will take climate action.”

Sonifying Climate Change

The composition was created by Judy Twedt, a doctoral student at the University of Washington specialised in atmospheric sciences, and Dargan Frierson, associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the university, as well as an avid amateur musician.

Twedt says that she wanted to explore new ways of presenting science and so used her background in music to try this. “There’s something special about sonifying a timeseries where you actually have to wait and listen for each data point to come. That’s what I think is special,” she said.

“When your eye looks at a curve you see it all at once, but when you hear it, you’re forced to think about the temporal duration,” Twedt explained.

The Keeling Curve

Frierson explains that they used the Keeling Curve because “if you understand the Keeling Curve, you kind of get the story of climate change.”

Charles David Keeling was an American scientist who was one of the first to notice that the burning of fossil fuels was causing a build up of CO2 in the atmosphere.

When Keeling began studying this is 1958 the global carbon dioxide level was about 337 parts per million, already up from the pre-industrial levels of about 280 parts per million. These days, the level regularly exceeds 400.


Want to know what the current carbon dioxide levels are? Check out the latest readings.

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