Home
This Title All WIREs
WIREs RSS Feed
How to cite this WIREs title:
WIREs Clim Change
Impact Factor: 4.402

Dendroclimatology: extracting climate from trees

Full article on Wiley Online Library:   HTML PDF

Can't access this content? Tell your librarian.

The scientific discipline called dendrochronology is the study of tree rings and of environmental conditions and events of the past that tree growth can reflect. The beginning of scientific study of tree rings is generally ascribed to an astronomer named Andrew Ellicott Douglass, who in the early 1900s noticed not only variation in tree‐ring width but also that this variability was similar between multiple trees. Dendrochronology subsequently expanded worldwide, and now over 3000 of the 12,000+ publications on dendrochronology can be classified as dendroclimatology. As a subfield of tree‐ring analysis, dendroclimatology estimates climate back in time beyond the start of recorded meteorological measurements. Dendroclimatology starts with site and tree selection and continues with dating, measuring, data quality control, and chronology construction. Tree rings are associated with climate using statistical models that are then evaluated for their full length to reconstruct climate of the past. Most commonly, either precipitation or temperature is reconstructed, and reconstructions are then analyzed for frequency of extreme years, changes in mean conditions, ranges of long‐term variability, and changes in interannual variability. For example, from reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperature based on tree rings and other natural archives of climate collected from multiple sites, it appears that current temperature (since ad 1850) exceeds the range of variability reconstructed for ad 1000‐1850. Uncertainties in dendroclimatology exist, including a relatively recent issue called divergence, but dendroclimatology has played, and continues to play, a substantial role in interdisciplinary research on climate change. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Figure 1.

(a) World map with tree‐ring sites (triangles) archived in the International Tree‐ring Data Bank, and (b) map of the American Southwest (Arizona and New Mexico) with tree‐ring sites (triangles). Data from NCDC25 as of August 2009.

[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
Figure 2.

Number of dendroclimatology publications per year listed within the online Bibliography of Dendrochronology27.

[ Normal View | Magnified View ]
Figure 3.

Reconstructions from tree rings for the American Southwest of (a) June–August Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and (b) April–September temperature anomalies from the 1951 to 1970 base period. In both cases, the smooth line is a cubic spline that expresses 75% of the 40‐year period.74 Dashed lines are averages of meteorological data for Arizona and New Mexico, 1900–2003 for PDSI, and 1895–2008 for temperature. Meteorological temperatures are interpolations using the Parameter–elevation Relationships on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM),75 and are available online from Westmap.76 For both Arizona and New Mexico, statewide temperature averages were converted to anomalies from the 1951 to 1970 base period, adjusted to have the same variance as the temperature reconstruction, and then merged into a single series for the Southwest. For PDSI and temperature, correlation values are for reconstructed and meteorological data for respective periods of overlap.

[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

Browse by Topic

Paleoclimates and Current Trends > Paleoclimate
blog comments powered by Disqus

Access to this WIREs title is by subscription only.

Recommend to Your
Librarian Now!

The latest WIREs articles in your inbox

Sign Up for Article Alerts

Twitter: earth_wise Follow us on Twitter

    Read the online-only issue of Groundwater:Public Supply Well Vulnerability from the National Ground Water Association:http://t.co/XhMd8d4pfN
    Come to the Wiley stand, choose your favourite publication and take a selfie to collect your FREE $5 Starbucks voucher! #GSA2014