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Turning Temperatures into Tones

Daniel Crawford turned data on climate change into information you can hear instead of read—and the world took notice.
January 5, 2015

Dan Crawford (left) and Professor Scott St. George with a tree sample in the Dendro Center.

Dan Crawford (left) and Professor Scott St. George with a tree sample in the Dendro Center.
Dan Crawford (left) and Professor Scott St. George with a tree sample in the Dendro Center

If you listen carefully, you can hear the climate changing.

That’s the hope, anyway, of Professor Scott St. George, from the Department of Geography, Environment and Society. He uses dendrochronology, the scientific analysis of tree rings, to study changes in the Earth’s climate over long periods of time.

Professor St. George had an idea: take data about global warming, and somehow make it into something you can hear.

Enter student Daniel Crawford. Dan joined the student staff in the Dendro Center after taking a class on biodiversity from Professor St. George. Knowing that Dan is a musician, St. George approached him about working on this project. With support from an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) grant, Dan took NASA climate data and converted it to musical notes. “We’re blending arts and science,” says Professor St. George.

The U's Institute on the Environment produced a video of Dan performing his composition--and it went viral. News media from the New York Times to Huffington Post wrote about it. Al Gore even tweeted it!

Watch a video of Dan Crawford performing his project on cello.

Visit the Dendrochronology Center on Facebook.