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We do not know the cause of the 11-year sunspot period. Here then is work for the astronomers.
Yet another important contact has this study developed. The rings in the beams of ancient ruins tell a story of the time of building, both as to its climate and the number of years involved and the order of building. This is anthropology. It will be mentioned on a later page.
Viewed through the present perspective, there is one way of expressing the entire work which shows more clearly its human end, a contact always worth emphasizing. If the study works out as it promises, it will give a basis of long-range weather forecasting of immense practical value for the future and of large scientific value in interpreting the climate of the past. This statement of it carries to all a real idea of the central problem.
II. YEARLY IDENTITY OF RINGS
The one fundamental quality which makes tree rings of value in the study of climate is their yearly identity. In other words, the ring series reaches its real value when the date of every ring can be determined with certainty. This is the quality which is often taken for granted without thought and often challenged without real reason. The climatic nature of a ring is its most obvious feature. There is a gradual cessation of the activity of the tree owing to lowered temperature or diminished water supply. This causes the deposition of harder material in the cell walls, producing in the pine the dark hard autumn part of the ring. The growth practically stops altogether in winter and then starts off in the spring at a very rapid rate with soft white cells. The usual time of beginning growth in the spring at Flagstaff (elevation 7,000 feet) is in late May or June and is best observed by Dr. D. T. MacDougal's "Dendrograph," which magnifies the diameter of the tree trunk and shows its daily variations. This spring growth depends upon the precipitation of the preceding winter and the way it comes to the tree. Heavy rains have a large run-off and are less beneficial than snow. The snow melts in the spring and supplies its moisture gradually to the roots as it soaks into or moves through the ground. There is evidence that if the soil is porous and resting on well cracked limestone strata, the moisture passes quickly and the effect is transitory, lasting in close proportion to the amount of rain. Trees so placed are "sensitive" and give an excellent report of the amount of precipitation. Such condition is commonly found in northern Arizona over a limestone bed rock. If the bed rock is basalt or other igneous material the soil over it is apt to be clay. The rock and the clay sometimes hold water until the favorable season is past and the tree growth de
pends in a larger measure on other factors than the precipitation. For example, the yellow pines growing in the very dry lava beds at Flagstaff show nearly the same growth year after year. It is sometimes large, but it has little variation. Such growth is “complacent."
Yearly identity is disturbed by the presence of too many or too few rings. Surplus rings are caused by too great contrast in the seasons. The year in Arizona is divided into four seasons, two rainy and two dry. The cold rainy or snowy season is from December to March, and the warm tropical summer, with heavy local rainfall, occurs in July and August. Spring and autumn are dry, the spring being more so than the autumn. If the snowfall of winter has not been enough to carry the trees through a long dry spring, the cell walls in June become harder and the growing ring turns dark in color as in autumn. Some trees are so strongly affected that they stop growing entirely until the following spring. A ring so produced is exceptionally small. But others near-by may react to the summer rains and again produce white tissue before the red autumn growth comes on. This second white-cell structure is very rarely as white as the first spring growth and is only mistaken for it in trees growing under extreme conditions, such as at the lowest and dryest levels which the yellow pines are able to endure. Such is the condition at Prescott or at the 6,0007,000 ft. levels on the mountains about Tucson. A broken and scattered rainy season may give as many as 3 preliminary red rings before the final one of autumn. In a few rare trees growing in such extreme conditions, it becomes very difficult to tell whether a ring is formed in summer or winter (that is, in late spring or late autumn). Doubling has become a habit with that particular treea bad habit—and the tree or large parts of it cannot be used for the study of climate.
But let us keep this clearly in mind: This superfluous ring formation is the exception. Out of 67 trees collected near Prescott, only 4 or 5 were discarded for this reason. Out of perhaps two hundred near Flagstaff, none have been discarded for this reason. Neodly a hundred yellow pines and spruces from northwestern New Mexico have produced no single case of this difficulty. The sequoias from California, the Douglas firs from Oregon, the hemlocks from Vermont and the Scotch pines from north Europe give no sign of it. On the other hand, 10 out of 16 yellow pines from the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson have had to be discarded and the junipers of northern Arizona have so many suspicious rings that it is almost impossible to work with them at all. Cypress trees also give much trouble.
The other difficulty connected with yearly identity is the omission of rings. Missing rings occur in many trees without lessening the value of the tree unless there are extensive intervals over which the absence produces uncertainty. A missing ring here and there can be located with perfect exactness and causes no uncertainty of dating. In fact, so many missing rings have been found after careful search that they often increase the feeling of certainty in the dating of rings.
Missing rings occur when autumn rings merge together in the absence of any spring growth. This rarely if ever occurs about the entire circumference of the tree. There are a few cases in which, if the expression may be excused, I have traced a missing ring entirely around a tree without finding it. I have observed many cases in which the missing ring has been evident in less than 10 per cent. of the circumference. Some are absent in only a small part of their circuit. I have observed change in this respect at different heights in the tree, but have not followed that line of study further. It is beautifully shown in the longitudinally bisected tree.
One sees from this discussion what the probable errors may be in mere counting of rings. In the first work on the yellow pines the dating was done by simple counting. Accurate dating in the same trees (19 of them) later on showed that the average error in counting through the last 200 years was 4 per cent., due practically always to missing rings. A comparison in seven sequoias between very careful counting and accurate dating in 2,000 years shows an average counting error of 35 years, which is only 1.7 per cent.
Full confidence in yearly identity really comes from another source. The finding of similar distribution of large and small rings in practically all individuals of widely scattered groups of trees over great periods of time has been evidence enough to make us sure. This comparison process of groups of rings in different trees has received the rather clumsy name of “cross-identification." Cross-identification was first successful in the 67 Prescott trees, then was carried across 70 miles to the big Flagstaff groups. Later it was found to extend 225 miles further to southwestern Colorado with extreme accuracy, 90 per cent. perhaps. This is over periods of more than 250 years. Catalina pines from near Tucson have a 50 per cent. likeness to Flagstaff pines. There are many points of similarity in the last 200 years and many differences. Santa Rita pines are less like the Flagstaff pines than are the Catalinas. In comparison with the California sequoias, differences become more common. The superficial resemblance to Arizona pines is 5 or 10 per cent. only. That is, out of every 10 or 20 distinctive rings with marked individuality, one will be found alike in California and Arizona. For example, A. D. 1407, 1500, 1580, 1632, 1670, 1729, 1782, 1822 and 1864 are small in Arizona pines and California sequoias. While only a few extreme individual years thus match, there are correspondences in climatic cycles to which attention .will be called later.
Cross-identification is practically perfect amongst the sequoias stretching across 15 miles of country near General Grant National Park. Trees obtained near Springville, some 50 miles south, show 50 to 75 per cent. resemblance in details to the northern group. This was far more than enough to carry exact dating between these two localities. Cross-identification in some wet climate groups was extremely accurate. A group of 12 logs floating in the rivermouth at Geffle, Sweden, showed 90 to 95 per cent. resemblance to each other. The range was 100 to 200 years and there were no uncertain years at all. The same was true of some 10 tree sections on the Norwegian coast and of 13 sections cut in Eberswalde in Germany. A half dozen sections cut in a lumber yard in Munich did not cross-identify with each other. A group of 5 from a lumber yard in Christiania was not very satisfactory. The vast majority, however, have been absolutely satisfactory in the matter of crossidentification. Nothing more is needed to make the one ring a year ideal perfectly sure, but if there were, it would come in such tests as frequently occur in checking the known date of cutting or boring, with a set of rings previously dated. That has been done on many occasions in Arizona and California. To give final assurance, the record in the yellow pine was compared with statements of good and bad years, and years of famine, flood and cold, reported in Bancroft's “History of Arizona and New Mexico," and it was found that his report identified with the character of the growth in the corresponding years of the trees.
Three results may be noted before leaving this important sub ject. Deficient years extend their character across country with more certainty than favorable years. A deficient year makes an individual ring small compared to those beside it. Large rings, on the other hand, are more apt to come in groups and so do not have quite the same individuality. Nor are they as universal in a forest. If they occur at a certain period in one tree, the chances are about 50 per cent. that the corresponding years in the neighboring trees will be similarly enlarged. If, however, a very small ring occurs in a tree, the chances are over 90 per cent. that the neighboring trees will show the same year small.2
Second, with many groups of trees where the resemblance between their rings is strikingly exact, a small number of individuals such as 5 will answer extremely well for a record, and even fewer will give valuable and reliable results. But the central part of a tree has larger growth and is less sensitive than the outer part. Its character is somewhat different. To get a satisfactory representation through several centuries, therefore, it is better to combine younger trees with older ones to get more even and constant record of climatic conditions.
The third thought is this. The spreading of a certain character over many miles of country stamps it in almost every case as climatic in origin, because climate is the common environment over large areas.
III. NUMBER AND LOCATION OF TREES The whole number of trees used is nearly 450 and includes cone-bearing trees from Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Vermont, England, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Bohemia. The total number of rings dated and measured is well over 100,000. The average ages found in these various trees are very interesting. The European groups reach for the most part about 90 years, although one tree in Norway showed 400 years of age, and 15 were found beginning as early as 1740. The Oregon group of Douglas firs goes back to about 1710, the Vermont hemlocks reach 1654, the Flagstaff yellow pines give a number of admirable records from about 1400.
The oldest trees, of course, were the great sequoias from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. They were found to have ages that formed natural groups, showing probably a climatic effect. There are very few under 700 years old (except the young ones which have started since the cutting of the Big Trees). A number had about that age. The majority of the trees scatter along in age from 1,200 up to about 2,200 years, at which age a large number were found, one or two were found of 2,500 years, one of 2,800, one of 3,000, one at just under 3,100, and the oldest of all just over 3,200. The determination of this age of the older sequoias in the present instance is not merely a matter of ring counting, but depends upon the inter-comparison of some 55,000 rings in thirtyfive trees. In 1919 a special trip was made to the Big Trees and samples from a dozen extra trees obtained in order to decide the case of a single ring, 1580 A. D., about which there was some doubt, and it was apparent that the ring in question stood for an extra year. This was corrected and it now seems likely that there is no
2 This success in cross-identification applies to the groups examined. A recent group of coast redwoods from Santa Cruz, California, present a multitude of difficulties.