Currently— April 18th, 2022

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What you need to know, currently.

Tree rings from centuries ago carry memories of catastrophes– wildfires, hurricanes, droughts and famines, to name a few– they may also hold clues about what climate events to expect in the future.

Rings reveal a tree’s age and what the weather was like during each year of its life. Light-colored rings are wood that formed in the spring and early summer and dark rings are from late summer and fall. Thin rings represent cold, dry years, while wide rings represent warm, wet ones. Pockmarks indicate a period of extreme cold and scars remain from fires that the tree has survived.

Essentially, the rings hold records of both weather and climate change.

The Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona is using its collection of 700,000 tree ring samples to reveal the future of the planet amid global warming and climate change.

“Climate variability drives tree-ring variability,” said fire ecologist and former director of the lab Thomas W. Swetnam to the Washington Post.

The lab’s dendrochronologists– scientists that use tree rings to study climate and atmospheric conditions during different points in time– assisted in a recent study on the 22-year-long drought that the Southwest has been experiencing, as the tree-ring data helped conclude that the megadrought was indeed the worst one in 1,200 years.

These small, thin slivers of wood will continue to record climate history and eventually, predict more and more of the planet’s future climate patterns.

— Aarohi Sheth