A pause. Infernal machinery.


Ask any second grader what you can do with the rings on a tree, and they’ll respond, “Learn the age of the tree.” They’re not wrong, but dendrochronology—the dating of trees based on patterns in their rings—is more than just counting rings. The hundred year-old discipline has given scientists access to extraordinarily detailed records of climate and environmental conditions hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

The ancient Greeks were the first people known to realize the link between a tree’s rings and its age but, for most of history, that was the limit of our knowledge. It wasn’t until 1901 that an astronomer at Arizona’s Lowell Observatory was hit with a very terrestrial idea—that climatic variations affected the size of a tree’s rings. The idea would change the way scientists study the climate, providing them with over 10,000 years of continuous data that is an important part of modern climate models. (…)

Dendrochronology operates under three major principles and a handful of other ground rules. The uniformitarian principle is perhaps the most important. It implies that the climate operates today in much the same way it did in the past. The uniformitarian principle does not imply that the climate today is the same as it was in the past, or even that today’s climatic conditions ever occurred in the past. It simply states that the basic processes and limiting factors are consistent through time.

{ Ars Technica | Continue reading | Dendrochronology | Wikipedia }

photo { David Stewart }