Climate change sounds predict impact of extreme weather

Monash University researchers are putting musicians at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

Plans to ‘sonify’ weather data could lead to new audible warning systems for communities vulnerable to extreme weather events, putting musicians at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

Researchers at the Monash University Climate Change Communication Research Hub with the Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music and Penn State University (USA) are working to ‘sonify’ cyclones and hurricanes to create soundtracks for use by scientists, weather forecasters and climate change researchers.

These soundtracks are created by tracking air pressure, rainfall and longitude and latitude every six hours. This data is processed by algorithmic composition and audio synthesis to produce distinct sound sequences.

Typically, scientists use data visualisation to show the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather.

But Dr David Holmes, Director of the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, said that by using sound, people can observe how extreme weather events associated with climate change have changed over time.

“When so many people see climate change as distant in time and place, this project provides an opportunity for people to hear climate change as it happens through a unique fusion of science and music, informed by communication research,” Dr Holmes said.

“With automatic weather stations transmitting data every 30 seconds, it may also be possible to ‘sonify’ storms and cyclones in real time. This could allow us to develop audible signals that help to warn communities that are vulnerable to extreme weather events.”

Monash University recently hosted a ‘Sonifying Climate Change in Australia’ event which brought together music specialists, communications scholars and climate scientists to discuss how these unique soundtracks can connect people to their changing climate through sound.