What glaciers sound like when they melt

A team of scientists recorded the excruciating sounds of glaciers melting. Different artists sampled them and transformed them into songs.

Global warming is causing the rapid melting of the world’s glaciers. A team of German researchers in Antarctica recorded the sounds of icebergs melting in 2009. When the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) listened to the recordings, it decided to make them available to international artists in order for them to transform the sounds into songs.

The Iceberg Songs Campaign

That’s how the Iceberg Songs campaign was conceived. This symbolic project, presented at COP21 in Paris at the end of 2015 with the publication of electronic songs by Trentemøller, Marc Houle, Chris Buseck and Robot Koch asks the world to listen, understand and share. Those who want to produce new tracks and give other voices to the melting ice blocks can download the sampled sounds.

melting glacier
Glaciers melting © Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The sounds glaciers make

Glaciers are majestic and the noises they make when they break – creaks, roars, whispers and trickles – are mournful signs of the vanishing of nature. A merciless countdown, where everything revolves around time. The more time people spend listening to music on the Iceberg Songs website, the more time they should spend reflecting on the effects of global warming. A timer reminds users how much time they have spent listening to the foreboding music so far.

iceberg melting
When they’re melting, glaciers emit excruciating sounds © Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Excruciating noises

“Of course icebergs are melting anyway, but they’ve become louder over the last couple of decades”, Nick Nuttall, spokesperson for the UNFCCC, said. “Today more than ever, the sounds they make remind me of animals in pain”. In the meantime, acoustic explorations in the Antarctic Ocean continue thanks to two hydrophones provided by PALAOA, an underwater acoustic observatory powered by wind and solar energy. The sounds recorded here are then transmitted to the Neumayer station, which sends the signal to a satellite connected to the Alfred Wegener Institute for Marine and Polar Research in Germany.

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