The Best Of Our Knowledge
The Best Of Our Knowledge
#1669: Trees store trove of useful data

Whatever allure trees might hold, they also have scads of data stored within their trunks.

Daniel Griffin, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Minnesota, recently published “This 500-Year-Old Tree in California Has a Story to Tell.” In The New York Times piece, he explains how tree-ring research is conducted and what kind of historical climate data he’s been able to uncover in his work.

The droughts that Griffin and his cohort are angling to investigate, though, have also become an impediment to their regular research tactics.

“Years ago, we wouldn’t have hesitated to bring chainsaws to collect entire discs of tree trunks from fallen trees,” Griffin wrote in the Times. “But not last year. We would leave the fallen trees where they were. We could not chance an errant spark that could ignite a wildfire.”

Additional reading

On Here and Now, a show from Boston’s WBUR, Griffin explains some of the mysteries he and his team are working to address while continuing their research.

Others also have compared the current drought in the West to historical information — and done so by using tree-ring data.

In his Times piece, Griffin pinpoints a mega drought that ran between 1572 and 1600 and contextualizes the changes scientists are currently seeing in the Southwest.

Griffin and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota have created an open-source “ultra high resolution” database of digital tree-ring images.

End notes

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