A tree ring represents one year in the life of a tree
Telling time with trees. Yes, it is true. Dendrochronology (dentro=trees, chrono=time, and ology=study of) is the science of dating past events by analyzing the width of the rings in tree trunks. Scientists, called dendrochronologists, read these patterns to study environmental changes and consider their impact on man.
The principles of dendrochronology are applied in many areas research because tree rings provide evidence of floods, droughts, insect infestation, fires, and earthquakes. By learning about droughts from past centuries, dendrochologists are able to help scientists in other fields seek solutions for current droughts. Dendrochologists also work with historians to date the time that buildings were constructed. Other research efforts include using tree rings to help tract large-scale climate variability, date prehistoric wildfires, and confirm glacier movements.
Dating Missouri's buildings
The Missouri Tree-Ring Laboratory has dated over 40 historic structures in Missouri, Illinois, and Ontario including the DeLasuss House in St. Genevieve, Missouri.
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A dendrochronologist working with a climatologist dated violins, also offering a theory for the “secret” ingredient of a Stradivarius violin’s sound. According to these two scientists, the wood used for the Stradivarius violin’s sound developed special acoustic properties as it was growing. They suggest a “Little Ice Age,” gripped Europe from the mid-1400’s until the mid-1800’s slowed down tree growth and yielded uncommonly dense alpine spruce for Antonio Stradivarius and other famous 17th century Italian violinmakers.
Andrew Ellicott Douglass began this field of study in the early 1900s at the University of Arizona. Laboratories around the world, in association with universities, continue research in the field today. The latest developments in dendrochronology are aided by the growth of computer and image analysis.
Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff