Ancient Climate Record Could Be Lost Within 10 Years

giant kauri tree photo

Image credit: g-hat/Flickr

Buried in New Zealand's peat bogs are more than 30,000 ancient climate records containing data that spans back to the last ice age. This data, stored in the rings of preserved kauri trees, is threatened by the demand for the prized timber.

Now, a group of researchers from Oxford University is racing to collect this vital data before it's too late.Chris Turney, the lead researcher of the project, commented:

We are facing a race against the clock to gather the information locked inside these preserved trees.

But, he added, "While it will be fascinating to find out more about the earth 30,000 years ago," the most important implications of this effort is for climatologists' understanding of the "challenges of future climate change."

The data, the team explained, is stored in the tree rings. By measuring the rings, researchers can extract information about temperature, precipitation, and levels of atmospheric carbon. The study would help climatologists form a more complete climate record, allowing them to build more accurate models for understanding current and future changes.

Christopher Ramsey, an archeologist at Oxford University commented:

The radiocarbon measurements should give us important new data that will help us to understand interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans during this period when there was rapid and dynamic change. Equally exciting is the prospect it will give us of more precise dating of archaeological sites from this period—illuminating the only window we have onto how humans responded to these major changes in the environment.

The kauri trees—which can grow up to 10 feet wide and live for 2,000 years or more—are found across northern New Zealand. When the trees die, they are often preserved in the regions peat bogs, from which they are then harvested for their highly-prized wood.

Given current demand for the wood, it is expected that this reserve of important climate data will be depleted within 10 years.

Read more about climate data:
View 300 Years of Global Climate Data on One Map
Assessing Climate Change Below the Surface
NASA and Beekeepers Use Satellites and Scales To Monitor Climate Change Impact on Bees

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