Studying the climatic conditions of the past, difficult as it may be is quite important in helping us understand the extent to which climate has changed, and this is where dendroclimatology comes into play. Dendroclimatology is the study of past climate by studying tree – more specifically, tree rings. Tree rings, as botanist and climatologist agree, are a good indication of the prevailing conditions. Thus, the discernable differences that exist in the tree rings provide a clear indication of the prevailing climatic conditions during that particular year.
For instance, wider tree rings indicate a period when the prevailing conditions were optimal for growth, thus the tree rings grew and expanded exponentially leading to the wider rings. On the other hand, thinner rings are indicative of less than stellar growth conditions which curtail the growth of the tree, and thus the growth of the rings.
From this understanding, one can make logical extrapolation of the climatic conditions that prevailed at different stages of growth for the tree. In this regard, this discipline of climatic studies helps researchers, scientists, and meteorologists develop a fairly accurate approximation of past climatic conditions and how things changed from the days of no humans to the days of cars and refinery plants.
The advantage of dendroclimatology in understanding past climate is that it can be used even with dead tree samples, which greatly improves the sample variety that is considered viable. Additionally, owing to the annual increment of tree rings, it is fairly easy to develop an accurate chronological time lapse of the prevailing conditions.
However, there are some caveats to contend with when you use dendroclimatology to study climate, among them being confounding factors in tree ring development. The size of tree rings is influenced by multiple factors including the health of the tree, the availability of nutrient, and other factors, some of which are non-linear. This limitation affects the accuracy of the data derived from dendroclimatology.