What is dendrochronology?

1 Answer
Aug 3, 2018

The study of growth rings in wood to find the years it was growing and to obtain information about the atmospheric conditions at the time.


Dendrochronology is a scientific method of analyzing the growth rings of trees to determine the year each ring was grown and details of the environment at the time (e.g. climate conditions, wet or dry years, carbon dioxide levels).

This is a very useful tool when trying to find the age of buildings, art, machines, etc. that contain wood.

All trees of a particular species grown in the same location at the same time will form growth rings with matching characteristics (relative thickness, color, hardness, chemical composition, etc).

By studying the rings that formed each year in many samples of wood, databases of growth ring patterns have been built up that enable the exact years of growth to be found for many old wooden objects.

Continuous records for some tree species have been accurately matched back thousands of years by matching sequences in growth rings with earlier and earlier generations of trees.

It is therefore possible to get precise information about environmental changes and to cross calibrate other methods of measuring historic environmental changes, and even to increase the precision of radiocarbon dating by cross-calibrating with known old wood samples.