Feature Interview: What tree rings tell us about climate in the Arctic

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How is light effecting what tree rings tell us about changing Arctic temperatures? (Courtesy Zan Stine)
How is light effecting what tree rings tell us about changing Arctic temperatures?
(Courtesy Zan Stine)
Tree rings in the Arctic hold important information about the northern environment.

But the so called ‘divergence problem,’ that is the difference between temperatures measured by thermometers and those gauged through tree rings since the 1950s, has long been unclear.

But a new study published in the journal Nature Communications sheds light on this question.

A recent study gathered data on tree rings from across the Arctic. In this figure, green and purple dots indicate cloudiness that is cloudier than the average Arctic station. The red and purple dots indicate temperatures that are colder than the average Arctic station during the growing season. (Courtesy Zan Stine)
A recent study gathered data on tree rings from across the Arctic. In this figure, green and purple dots indicate cloudiness that is cloudier than the average Arctic station. The red and purple dots indicate temperatures that are colder than the average Arctic station during the growing season. (Courtesy Zan Stine)

Especially, when it came to data provided by trees in northwestern Russia, some parts of Scandinavia and the Canadian province of Quebec.

“This under prediction of temperature by the tree rings is most prevalent in locations that are cloudy,” said Zan Stine, an assistant professor at San Francisco State University who authored the study.

“If you go to the sunniest regions of the Arctic you don’t’ see anything at all. You see the tree rings are perfectly capturing all the variability, both the year to year variability and the longterm trends in temperature.”

Professor Zan Stine. (Abby Swann / Courtesy Zan Stine)
Professor Zan Stine. (Abby Swann / Courtesy Zan Stine)
To find out more, Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn spoke with Zan Stine this week about his research:

Related stories from around the Arctic:

Canada: Concerns about Canada’s boreal forest, The Canadian Press

Finland: Insect wrecks havoc on Finnish spruce trees; global warming to blame?, Yle News

Sweden:  Weather deals double blow to Sweden’s timber industry, Radio Sweden

United States: White spruce may thrive as temperatures warm across subarctic Alaska, Alaska Dispatch

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project.

Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the violent death of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on violence and trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Twitter: @Arctic_EQ

Email: eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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