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CO2 in tree rings can reveal past climate information

Last Updated: Sunday, December 6, 2009 - 13:55

Toronto: The analysis of carbon and oxygen isotopes embedded in tree rings can reveal information about past climate events, Canadian scientists have claimed.

Researchers at Carleton University said that carbon and
oxygen isotope analysis is a good way to measure past climate
change as it can provide accurate data on past events.

Although, scientists have long looked at the width of
tree rings to estimate temperature levels of past years but
strong correlation between the carbon and oxygen data and
temperatures has been found for the first time.

In the study published in the journal of Arctic, Antarctic
and Alpine Research, the team led by Trevor Porter compared
temperature data collected in Inuvik, Northern Canada with
their own analysis of isotopes found in white spruce trees in
the Mackenzie Delta region.

"Width of rings can vary considerably between trees even
when they are growing in the same stand. This variation can
complicate reconstructions of past climate," Porter said.

He said, "Growth is controlled by many things... they
(trees) can all end up just a little bit different but Isotope
signals, on the other hand, are often very similar between

This means researchers can gather accurate data from
three or four trees instead of the 20 they might need for tree
ring width analysis, he added.
Isotope analysis allows researchers to conduct their work
using a smaller sample size than needed when trying to
re-construct temperature records using tree ring width.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, December 6, 2009 - 13:55

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