The Climate Music Project Current Work

We are currently performing "Climate", a 30-minute original composition by Erik Ian Walker in collaboration with The ClimateMusic Project. 

Climate reflects five hundred years of the climate’s past, present, and (possible) futures.

In creating this piece, we used three different climate variables, specifically:  atmospheric CO2, near surface temperature, earth energy balance. We also used ocean pH, which is affected by the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  

The data sets for each of these variables are from simulations from the Community Earth System Model, an open model that has been used extensively in national and international assessments of climate change.    

The model simulates how the atmosphere, land, ocean, and sea ice change in response to changes to the environment, in particular both the natural and manmade sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.  In Climate,  you will be able to hear the influence of natural sources;  for example, in 1883 when the eruption of Krakatoa results in temporary cooling period.  

Climate opens by setting Earth in its context in our universe, galaxy, and solar system, then we begin the music expressing the long, stable climate humanity has enjoyed before the introduction of fossil fuels.

The unique aspect of this performance begins at the year 1800 A.D. , representing the approximate start of the industrial era.  At this point, each of the four variables influences the composition in a specific way.

1.     Atmospheric CO2 is represented by music tempo

2.     Near surface temperature by pitch

3.     Earth energy balance by distortion and ring modulation

4.     Ocean pH as compositional form

During live performances, a set of visual data animations tracks the trajectories of these variables over time.   Each minute of the composition represents 25 years.

The composition and graphs express climate changes up to the year 2005.  At this point, the composition and the graphs provide two possible scenarios projecting to the year 2300 AD:

1. The first scenario represents business as usual, in which we continue to burn fossil fuels without regard for their impact, resulting in an approximate increase of 8 degrees C.  This is represented by the bright red lines on the graphs (below); and

2. A second scenario in which there is an ambitious effort to reduce our emissions and soften the impacts of climate change, resulting in an approximate increase of 2 degrees C. This is represented by the bright blue lines on the graphs (below) .