By Sally McNamara
Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Tree Ring by Valerie Trouet
Perhaps a unique wet interval on the Mongolian Plateau made all the difference for Genghis Kahn. And after 300 years, the Japanese were able to determine the source of a mammoth tsunami when submerged trees revealed an earthquake on the Pacific North Coast in 1700. Connecting the dots, or more specifically the tree rings, to create a picture of weather patterns across time intervals is the objective of dendrochronology.
Valarie Trouet is not only an experienced Dendrochronologist but also that rare thing, a scientist who can tell a good story with facts. Her research, combined with many others, incorporates tree rings counted from coring but also such sources as submerged wood from swamps, wells, and shipwrecks. Indicators such as stalagmites, ice cores and sunspots also describe climate effects all over the planet and across time. Connecting historical events to the research with hypothesis as to how the weather might have affected the events is another way to see snapshots of human history.
Follow Ms. Trouet is she treks up mountains, across plains and digs into shorelines to collect the evidence to tell the stories. And pick up some unique new vocabulary on the trip: what is a “Dzud” or “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” or the “Smokey Bear Effect”? The good news: few trees were injured in this research. Techniques have been developed for this research which is not destructive to the subject trees. If you need any more reasons to value trees, this short, effective, interesting book will provide them.