What sounds do you associate with a volcano? The crash of a violent eruption? The crackle of hot lava cooling in the air? In fact, there’s a very different way to listen to a volcano.

Sonification is the audio equivalent of data visualisation, but in this case data is represented by sounds assigned to different types of data. Listening to the sonic representation of the data is a good way of distinguishing patterns over time.

These audio clips were produced from data taken from the Soufrière Hills volcano in Montserrat between April 2005 and May 2007, during which time the volcano was erupting continuously.

Three different kinds of measurements were taken - the clip above combines seismic, sulphur dioxide and GPS data, which you can also download here:

Download combined MP3 - 3.1MB (right click and 'Save Target As' or similar)

Find out more about the three types of data, and download individual MP3 audio files, below.

Seismic activity

Increases in ground shaking, particularly the occurrence of ‘earthquake swarms’, often precede volcanic eruptions. The data represents the number of earthquakes a day: the greater the number of earthquakes, the more intense the sound.

Download seismic MP3 - 2.3MB (right click and 'Save Target As' or similar)

Sulphur dioxide emission

Emissions of Sulphur dioxide increase as volcanoes gear up to erupt. This audio track represents the number of tonnes of Sulphur dioxide emitted every day. The noise chosen to represent it gives an intense windy sound when emissions peak.

Download sulphur MP3 - 2.3MB (right click and 'Save Target As' or similar)

GPS distance

GPS detectors measure how a volcano’s flanks bulge during heightened activity. The sound assigned to this movement increases in pitch as GPS detectors move apart, and decrease as they move back together.

Download GPS MP3 - 2.3MB (right click and 'Save Target As' or similar)

The data has been kindly provided by Paul Cole, Director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. The sonification has been created by artist and programmer Daniel Jackson and audio programmer and engineer Tim Venison.

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