Dendrochronology - Trees: Recorders of Climate Change

In this activity, students are introduced to tree rings by examining a cross section of a tree, also known as a 'tree cookie.' They discover how tree age can be determined by studying the rings and how ring thickness can be used to deduce times of optimal growing conditions. Next, they investigate simulated tree rings applying the scientific method to explore how climatic conditions varied over time.

Go To:

NCAR - National Center for Atmospheric Research

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Educators should explain to students how the matching of tree rings between trees of different ages is done (by searching for patterns to extend the record past the life of just one tree).

Great opportunity to touch on radiometric dating techniques that allow scientists to absolutely date trees that are found in bogs and other environments.

Trees don't die from coring - students will probably ask.

Educators should explain to students the elliptic growth of trees.

Educators should indicate that dendrochronology is a complex science and large uncertainties can exist.

Educators might want to provide alternatives to a simple cross section of tree rings and provide a better explanation of tree coring.

Educators may want to project images instead of using overhead transparencies.

Additional Resources links on page 4 don't work. Two of them are incorrect and one of the NASA websites is not available anymore.

For a good alternative activity on dendrochronology see Signs of Change: Studying Tree Rings activity at http://www.climatechangenorth.ca/section-LP/LP_28_HI_M_nancy.html.

Additional resources and science articles about dendrochronology at the Arizona Tree Ring site http://www.ltrr.arizona.edu.

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