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When turned into music, climate change sounds alarmingly beautiful

While doing field work in the Arctic, University of Washington doctoral candidate Judy Twedt could see the impact of sea level rise, carbon emissions and rapidly disappearing sea ice firsthand. But communicating the urgency of that data to people outside the bubble of the scientific world remained a struggle.

She found the answer in music.

Twedt sonifies climate data — basically, she makes iconic or meaningful data sets audible by translating each data point into a note. When CO2 rises on a graph curve, the notes react by becoming high and screechy. As sea ice disappears, one hand replicates the sound of its diminishment by dipping into the low register of a piano while the other replicates a twinkling pattern that replicates repeating, shifting seasons.

By using music's unique ability to imprint on the human brain, Twedt's result is a sonic map that can help us understand how climate change is upending our world, just by listening.

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When turned into music, climate change sounds alarmingly beautiful