Bad news for Michael Mann’s ‘treemometers’ ?

peanuts_treemometerFrom the “trees aren’t linear instruments and the Liebigs Law department” and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, comes this story that suggests the older trees are, the less linear their tree ring growth might be, which has implications for “paleoclimatology” and Mann’s hockey stick temperature reconstructions from tree rings.

Trees grow faster and store more carbon as they age

Trees put on weight faster and faster as they grow older, according to a new study in the journal Nature. The finding that most trees’ growth accelerates as they age suggests that large, old trees may play an unexpectedly dynamic role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Richard Condit, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, devised the analysis to interpret measurements from more than 600,000 trees belonging to 403 species. “Rather than slowing down or ceasing growth and carbon uptake, as we previously assumed, most of the oldest trees in forests around the world actually grow faster, taking up more carbon,” Condit said. “A large tree may put on weight equivalent to an entire small tree in a year.”

“If human growth would accelerate at the same rate, we would weigh half a ton by middle age and well over a ton at retirement,” said Nate Stephenson, lead author and forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Whether accelerated growth of individual trees translates into greater carbon storage by aging forests remains to be seen. Programs like the United Nations REDD+ are based on the idea that forest conservation and reforestation mitigate global warming by reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 1980, the first large-scale tree plot was established in Panama in an effort to understand why tropical forests were so diverse. More than 250,000 trees with trunk diameters greater than 1 centimeter were identified and measured within a 50-hectare area.

Tree growth measurements from more than 600,000 trees belonging to 403 species from forest plots around the world coordinated by the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Studies/FOREST GEO showed that the tree growth often accelerates as trees age. Credit: Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science

“ForestGEO is now the foremost forest observatory system in the world with 53 plots in 23 countries and more than 80 partner institutions,” said Stuart Davies, ForestGEO director. “We hope that researchers continue to work with our data and our staff as they ask new questions about how forests respond to global change.”

###

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems.

Website:

http://www.stri.si.edu/english/research/features/forestgeo.php

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95 thoughts on “Bad news for Michael Mann’s ‘treemometers’ ?

  1. I wonder if they have considered the possibility that tree growth may also be accelerating due to increases in CO2 levels?

  2. “A large tree may put on weight equivalent to an entire small tree in a year.”

    While I agree with the idea that trees make lousy Paleo-climato-makeitupaswego thermometers, I think statements like this could be made a tad more scientific. Perhaps “large”, “small”, and “may are defined in his work. If so my apologies.

  3. That will have to be filled under the category” Oh Mann” with all the rest.

    Timber!!!
    P.S Dr M. Mann
    If you read my post, Just want to know if you are seeing signs of the sun freezing your hockey stick in the ice yet? Remember my first tweet to you when you blocked me 2 years ago. Yup this is I, so many blocked how could you remember me?

  4. The biggest mstery is why anyone who claims intelligence in these matters would ever buy into the idea that temperature determines tree growth. I would think that any farmer would consider Mann a city-bred fool.

  5. I am forever regretting not bookmarking an article in a well-known popular science magazine by a historian which basically said that he didn’t want to tell the truth about tree-rings (i.e, they are only accurate to within 2 degrees F) because that would give “ammunition” to skeptics…

  6. I really do not see a problem for the alarmists. If the public finally realizes that the increased carbon dioxide increases the rate of growth, they can always claim that increasing temperatures cause increasing carbon dioxide. This not only wraps things up in a nice circular argument, but certainly would not affect their credibility in my estimation.

  7. Wow! This story has made it to The Guardian.

    Trees accelerate growth as they get older and bigger, study finds
    Findings contradict assumption that old trees are less productive and could have important implications for carbon absorption

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/15/trees-grow-more-older-carbon

    Guardian provides this link.

    Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12914.html

  8. Donald Mitchell says:
    January 15, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    I really do not see a problem for the alarmists. If the public finally realizes that the increased carbon dioxide increases the rate of growth, they can always claim that increasing temperatures cause increasing carbon dioxide. This not only wraps things up in a nice circular argument, but certainly would not affect their credibility in my estimation.
    ________
    You have that bass ackwards: “they can always claim that increasing temperatures cause increasing carbon dioxide.” That’s the dirty little secret that the warmunists work so hard to suppress. True, it’s just a matter of time before they try to rationalize that fact into their propaganda. Their spiel right now is that rising CO2 causes rising temperatures and mankind makes CO2 rise. Obviously, You aren’t feeling appropriately guilty… pay up.

  9. When a tree is younger, it is trying hard to grow up, up towards the light and clear of the undergrowth and the madding crowd.

    When a tree is older, and established, it stands up in the light, and no longer needs to work
    so hard, so begins the middle age spread.

    Is that more or less the substance of this Smithsoniac discovery, or do I bark up the wrong tree?

  10. I don’t see anything about annual carbon cycling versus standing crop numbers. Tropical forests drop leaves more or less continually but there is minimal organic litter because the ground-litter is cycled so rapidly in tropical forests. That number tends to be quite LARGE from what little has been revealed in studies. Much more remains unknown, just as is the case in most of this bullcrap.

    I also don’t see anything about species variability in these numbers but it is certain that there is a large range of numbers involved here as well.

    The take-away should be the amount we don’t know about ecosystem and species carbon cycling / growth dwarfs the amount we do know.

  11. Finally, someone is doing empirical research on treemometry. It comes only seventeen years after The Team ignored the obligation to do it. Once this work gets rolling, prepare to be amazed. Science will replace wishful thinking. Should be broadcast to all secondary school students.

  12. Oscar Bajner says:
    January 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    The takeaway is that paleoclimatologists have ignored this fact and many similar facts.

  13. ‘Trees put on weight faster and faster as they grow older, according to a new study in the journal Nature.’

    Just like the rest of us.

  14. Cam_S says:
    January 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    “Wow! This story has made it to The Guardian.”

    I bet it gets disappeared. They do not yet understand its implications.

  15. Having read Montgomery’s book “Dirt” (listened to the audiobook actually) twice, pdf here, I think of trees differently…
    Trees are not ‘carbon stores’ although they do contain lots of carbon of course, but are really just vehicles that transport CO2 and put it into the ground.
    Over their lifetime, trees drop lots of litter (dead leaves, twigs and branches) onto the forest floor and eventually themselves. Certainly, probably 99% of that becomes CO2 again, BUT, the remaining 1%, pulled down by ‘critters’ and buried gradually builds up to make fine quality topsoil.(Very unfortunately ‘dirt’ being the US word apparently.)
    Its slow a process, 1″ per century if you’re lucky, down to 1″ per millennium if you’re not. Heather moors like in Scotland ‘do’ about 1″ every 160 years, the best the UK can offer.
    It does however amount to a lot of carbon.
    Farming, always being forced into the cheapest option, uses this innate fertility without replacing it, effectively oxidizing the buried carbon. Nitrate fertilizer actually carries the warning “Oxidizing Agent” although that’s not the mechanism, bacteria, always starved of nitrogen do the job.
    If you accept that mechanism of trees burying carbon, then you’ll see the utter stupidity of burning them in power stations and the whole thinking behind bio-fuels. Every crop cycle, annual for corn and maybe 20 years for trees, removes ever more carbon from the soil, putting it into the atmosphere and reducing the soil’s ability to grow the next crop.
    As always it seems in Climate Science, they’ve got all back asswards….

  16. I can only imagine Mann’s bluster. ” 600,000 trees? Preposterous! 12 trees in one field would have been plenty of samples for me!”

  17. Wait a minute, tree growth has to be asymptotic to zero at some point in their lifetime. Otherwise, you know, 2000-foot trees.

  18. I did a quick survey, and 97% of trees support the use of fossil fuels as an energy source. They love the additional CO2, and would like it a bit warmer in the winter, if we can manage that. 100% opposed the use of firewood, under any circumstances.

  19. @Eustace Cranch – where some see a problem, others see an opportunity.

    I envision a ‘crawling’ CNC mill that’d carve an entire cruise ship out of one log.

    “Hi, yes, national forest? I understand you’re harvesting. Yes, I’d like an offcut. 3400 square feet, two stories. I’d like it fairly soon, I’ve already leased the spider-bots to carve it.”

  20. Well…..

    This may be a case of forgetting that trees also get thicker and thicker thus the weight of any tree- ring will grow right proportional to its diameter. Further forgetting the volume or the approximate surface at least of the tree- crown, and sum of the surfaces of all the leave areas.

    Provided that anything else is kept constant.

    Digging into things like this is allways a bit risky if one is not toooo aquainted to science and to studies of nature.

    I allways learnt in school that dendro- chronology is possible because the tree- rings are wider in warm years and narrower in cold years. But trying for myself one day on a heap of lumbers I actually found the opposite on Picea abies. Wide rings in the nasty cool and rainy summers, and narrow to very narrow rings in the fameous summers of drought and of superne bathing conditions.

    A relation that is quite easily explained by the fameous premises of photosynthesis, and from the fact that Picea abies rather preferre a bit cooler climate, actually relating to the Taiga- vegetation and mostly standing rather in the shadows on the northeast sides of the hills.

    I would be very careful not to make a fool of myself by looking into this in order to discuss world and party politics without being a bit enlighted and experienced about forests and tree- rings and archaeology and dendrochronology.

  21. No matter, the implications for preserving old growth forests will dwarf any implications for research quality issues in climate science. It will serve to get the item attention though.

  22. “Wait a minute, tree growth has to be asymptotic to zero at some point in their lifetime. Otherwise, you know, 2000-foot trees.:”

    You’ve misread… they’re not talking height, they’re talking volume. Think of it this way, as a sapling you’ve got a straw’s worth of volume in a year… the outer skin. As the tree gets taller and wider, the volume of the additional skin increases in both circumference and height. What is implied by commenters, but not sure it was actually stated in the article, is that the thickness of the ring also increases. I don’t read that.

    • Don`t orget either, tat Manns tree- ring studies and “hockey curve” result from this….

      ……..has been cross- examined by other kinds of methods carried out on other materials and by other institutes.

      On stalactites and stalagmites, on choral reefs, on Clay sediments in the arctic ocean northwest of Spitzbergen, and on Chalk- algae northwest of Grønland.

      All giving approximately the same result and principle of the temperature history in recent milleniæ.

      This being a quite more enlighted way of cross- examining and criticizing Michael Manns results.

      Paleo- climatic research is rather an old and quite traditional dicipline, dealing for instance with pollen analyses and moor- research.

      Which is perhaps rather new to several of you, but I am not so shocked and surprized and politically commerciaqlly religiously upset at all by what Michael Mann could present, because I rather knew it from before . It thus does not form any kind of serious threats to my lifestyle and beliefs.

      It is rather quite similar to things that we have found in the historical and the stone age museum for decades, thus we have learnt to live with such things rather than with Marx` and Lenins learnings of worlds history.

  23. kcrucible says:
    January 15, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    “You’ve misread… they’re not talking height, they’re talking volume”

    Same problem. Growth, in any direction, has to slow to zero at some point.

  24. This is where I think one of the largest sources of the increase in CO2 is coming from – the destruction of one of the largest CO2 “sinks” – old growth (ie. large tree) forests in “growing” but still poor nations. (The largest “source” would be warming oceans outgassing CO2.) The loss of a very LARGE number of old growth trees in developing countries has to have had a major impact in the “source/sink” balance causing a slow gradual build up of CO2. IMHO the loss of a large old tree has a much more dramatic cumulative effect than the burning of a barrel of oil. One effects the active ongoing annual consumption of CO2, while the other simply adds a finite amount of CO2 back to the plant food “pool”. In the “source/sink” balance concept, a tree (sink) is much more like an engine (source) that lives, on average, a longer life and whose “sinking” activity is only governed by fuel (water and CO2), temperature and sunlight. Loss of an old tree forest, if this “larger provides greater CO2 sink capacity” theory holds up, is the equivalent of cumulatively adding greater and greater coal burning capacity at a power plant.

    Of course, CO2 increase will ultimately be compensated for by further “greening” of the planet because of the extra “plant food” now available. I predict that the planet is going to get ever greener and that all this beneficial CO2 is going to have a miniscule – maybe even undetectable – effect on climate and/or global average temperature (short term AND long term). IMHO. Why? Again, my basic reason has to do with orders of magnitude. CO2 never changes phase. Conduction and convection of heat-absorbing and heat-radiating WATER provides orders of magnitude greater and faster heat/temperature modulation. Water changes phase regularly on our planet in direct response to added, or loss of, heat. CO2 does not.

    Again, since the data now shows that for the last 12? 15? 17? years CO2 has continued its inexorable climb, while global average temperatures have bounced around but had no average steady increase, the cause-effect linkage has been proven inconsequential for the “increasing-CO2-causes-increasing-temp theory”. (It might still have a reasonably measurable linkage in the opposite “increasing-temp-causes-increasing-CO2 theory”.) So, IMHO, in spite of Ira G’s recent painstaking “theoretical” explanation of the way “green house gases” are supposed to work, that cause/effect relationship (though it is real) has dwindled to inconsequential at current CO2 levels. Meanwhile the much, much, much, more powerful short term stimulus-response governor, water, in all its latent heat transporting physical forms, ice/water/vapor, continues to provide the vast majority of the climate moderation on planet earth just as it always has. Worried about CO2 doubling? Why? Water content regularly doubles, triples . . . awe shucks! increases up to 60 fold and even becomes liquid and ice! in our atmosphere, and can in some places drop to near zero, . . . all of it NATURALLY in direct response to incoming radiant heat. With this significant an effect, you have to appreciate the “orders of magnitude”. If ‘green house gases” provide a heat flow resisting “blanket” to the planet – then water is the “down comforter”, while CO2 is a “mosquito net”.

    IMHO.

  25. ??? They think this is new? I’m a layman but logged wood in Maine in my youth AND know the equation for the volume of a cylinder … I thought everyone knew tree faster and faster as they grow

  26. This may be true for tropical rain forest trees in unmanaged forests, where old growth canopy may ‘starve’ saplings. But is is surely not for southern yellow pine. In those managed forests, when harvested for pulp they are harvested just after maximum biomass production per year is reached, usually about 20-25 years. If harvested for plywood peeler blocks and lumber (2x4s) they are harvested at 35-44 years. The lost monetary time value of slower rate of biomass production is more than offset by the higher per cubit value of the end resulting wood. Same is true on much longer time scales formthe various western coniferous species.It is also not true for managed (but not plantation) northern hardwoods, where older larger trees are selectively harvested every few years to promote faster growth of younger trees.
    Any professional forester knows this. It is how companies like Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser maximize yields. Check any managed forest text. Check the managed forests on my Wisconsin farm.
    The blanket conclusion simply is not universally true.

  27. When I saw this post I was immediately reminded about claims about trees reaching their co2 uptake saturation point.

    By Joe Romm on January 21, 2008
    Decelerating growth in tropical forest trees — thanks to accelerating carbon dioxide
    …..More evidence that the carbon sinks in the ocean and on the land may saturate sooner than scientists expected, which will inevitably lead to an acceleration of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide……

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2008/01/21/202301/decelerating-growth-in-tropical-forest-trees-thanks-to-accelerating-carbon-dioxide/

    Romm & Co. really does need to look at the totally contradictory paleo evidence from the literature.

    Just last year we had the BBC on the case.

    BBC – 18 August 2013
    European forests near ‘carbon saturation point’
    European forests are showing signs of reaching a saturation point as carbon sinks, a study has suggested.

    Since 2005, the amount of atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the continent’s trees has been slowing, researchers reported.

    Writing in Nature Climate Change, they said this was a result of a declining volume of trees, deforestation and the impact of natural disturbances……

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23712464

    Could it be due to the colder winters of late?

  28. Another way to see that this is not universally true is simply to look at growth rings of a boll cross section. My wife and I just harvested two, a white pine and an oak, for proposes of making furniture at the cabin in Georgia. For both the hardwood and the softwood, the annual ring spacing starts large, and shrinks as the tree matures. Inner rings are more widely spaced, outer rings are quite narrow. One can measure this differential over time, and using the change over time in pi* delta r^2 (since volume is just times height, and trees reach their species typical maximum height long before maximum mass (explained by the hydraulic limitation hypothesis) can actually use calculus to work out optimum harvesting times depending on the wood sought-sawtimber or pulpwood (or, in the case of hardwood with extensive crowns, both).

  29. Could this paper mean that Warmists should focus on deforestation as opposed to trying to curb this vital PLANT FERTILIZER. Ye, that’s right I called in a plant fertilizer. Any Warmists who wish to doubt this just click the link and read about papers actually calling the process co2 fertilization.
    .

  30. A little arithmetic would have saved the researchers all that trouble:

    (Circumference of year 20 ring / Circumference of year 10 ring) >2

    given, on average, rings are similar in thickness plus there is growth upwards and outwards of the canopy. Certainly if you measured 100 trees the relation would be pretty firm. Sheesh what are they teaching in botany and forestry these days that this is a new discovery.

    And:

    “…growth accelerates as they age suggests that large, old trees may play an unexpectedly dynamic role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.” Suggests? It is a certainty! Sheesh, what arithmetic are they teaching botanists and foresters these days. No 95% certainty among these folks.

  31. One thing for me that stood out was in ‘the team’ there was not one person who was well qualified in consider what actual effects tree growth, considering how important was to their claims . But then one thing climate ‘scientists’ have never been short of its ego and a extreme belief, against all evidenced, if their own intelligence. So perhaps they felt they did not need one.

  32. (Area = pi * r^2) implies that as r increases by one unit, the additional area (volume) increases by over 6 times. Of course more wood is created if the same thickness is added each year.

    Does the article say that the thickness of each year’s growth also increases? Or is the increase due to geometry?

  33. Along another line of thinking. I would think that CO2 consumption by a small tree vs a large tree is more directly related to a) the number and surface area coverage of leaves, or needles, or whatever structure contains the chlorophyll, ie. the areal density of LEAVES, b) the packing density inside those leaves, and efficiency with which that particular species of tree leaf use blue and red light to convert water and CO2 to longer chain carbon compounds, and c) the number and areal density of LEAVES . . . its the leaves not the rings.

    Tree rings measure the efficiency with which a particular species of tree’s leaves are capable of converting CO2 to the carbohydrate that makes up that tree’s biomass. Stating the obvious, temperature is only one of many variables that affect the continuous photosynthesis reaction that ultimately creates a tree’s rings. Don’t local CO2 concentration, light, water, chlorophyll concentration (ie. availability of magnesium) play a much larger role?

  34. Err, sorry to be a wet blanket but on this occasion the second conclusion is invalid. Think of cancer cells or embryos. They double to grow, 2, 4, 8, 16 etc but then the rate starts to slow down , probably due to Liebigs law, and the cancer or embryo, which seems to be increasing in size and weight at a massive clip is actually slowing down as it grows (fact though counter intuitive).
    The second part of the contrariness is that there are a lot more small tres than big trees out there, many times more, all growing at a faster rate as earlier along the curve. Hence a lot more CO2 storage in the masses of far more abundabpnt growing smaller trees.
    Tree rings are obviously prone to error, run with it, tease the warmists if you can with the storage issue, but …

  35. “Rather than slowing down or ceasing growth and carbon uptake, as we previously assumed, most of the oldest trees in forests around the world actually grow faster, taking up more carbon,”

    Do a lot of assuming in science do we Mr Condit?

  36. @ Rud Istvan at 1:25 pm

    Exactly right. Well-said.

    @ mkelly at 1:25 pm,

    I disagree. Tree height is determined by genetics, given equally favorable growing conditions.

  37. When talking of volume growth it is worth remembering that trees are fractal.
    The growth in tree volume can be a twig from a branch. An increase in the external sixe of the tree may not be necessary.
    So the limits of growth may not be reached on the lifetime of a tree.

  38. Reminds me of interesting problem. If earth was a perfect sphere and a rope was wrapped around the equator one meter above the ground how much longer would rope be compared to length of equator ?

  39. stevek on January 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm
    Reminds me of interesting problem. If earth was a perfect sphere and a rope was wrapped around the equator one meter above the ground how much longer would rope be compared to length of equator ?
    —————-

    2pi longer

  40. @Rud Istvan: Exactly right. This may change now with a CO2 over 400ppm, but I don’t expect a sudden change. Anyway, I would take a core sample at several year intervals. Even a tree height may depend on a CO2 concentration.

  41. “””””……Trees grow faster and store more carbon as they age

    Trees put on weight faster and faster as they grow older, according to a new study in the journal Nature……..”””””””

    Golly; how can that be ? I would have thought that my office desk aspidistra, would put the pounds on so much faster, than that big redwood, growing outside my window.

    I wonder if it could somehow be related to the fact that older bigger trees, and plants, have more surface area exposed to the solar energy, and the atmospheric carbon source; not to mention that old big trees have much bigger root systems to grab soil nutrients much faster than my deskpot brat. Couldn’t be that easy, could it ??

    Gee, I learn something new every day !

  42. My first thought is older trees are taller and therefore shade out nearby smaller/younger trees. They also have a larger “Rain shadow” (more branches and leaves)

    Also note he is talking about the WEIGHT of the tree and not the diameter or the height. I would imagine the weight would equal the diameter at 1/2 the height times the height at a rough guess.

  43. “””””……David L says:

    January 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    stevek on January 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm
    Reminds me of interesting problem. If earth was a perfect sphere and a rope was wrapped around the equator one meter above the ground how much longer would rope be compared to length of equator ?
    —————-

    2pi longer…….””””””

    Yeah, well the earth ISN’T a perfect sphere; so now, how much longer will your rope be ??

    By the way; nothing is a perfect sphere; such things don’t exist; nor does anything else we talk about in mathematics.

  44. This fact is geometrically obvious. If the tree adds a 1 mm ring, the tree diameter increases by
    2 mm. The next year’s ring will add ~6.28 sq mm more growth than the year.

  45. “If human growth would accelerate at the same rate, we would weigh half a ton by middle age and well over a ton at retirement”

    I’m working on it.

  46. “If human growth would accelerate at the same rate, we would weigh half a ton by middle age and well over a ton at retirement,” said Nate Stephenson, lead author and forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

    That should be

    ““If human growth accelerated at the same rate, we would weigh half a ton by middle age and well over a ton at retirement”

    Can we trust someone who cannot handle the grammar of a simple conditional sentence?

  47. I thought the whole “hide the decline” event proved trees weren’t a good proxy. The point was trees showed cooling when it was in fact warming. It proved that claims that rates warming/cooling and values of historical temps were unfounded. We also know that the ice core locations are too few and number, don’t have the resolution to show comparably trends, and that physical and chemical process mean that fluctuations in temp and GHG levels are likely to go unobserved.

  48. Pete in Cumbria – I’m reasonably happy with most of your comment (Jan 15 12:41pm) but I’m not too sure about “[trees] are really just vehicles that transport CO2 and put it into the ground“. The ground under many forests is very poor – witness the very poor yields from cleared Amazon forest areas, not to mention the almost total lack of topsoil in many Australian forests. My take is that a mature forest is carbon neutral – all other things being equal in 10^n years time it will contain exactly the same amount of C – unless it is in a swamp or some other special situation which really does hold onto the C.

    DonV (Jan 15 1:16pm) – Although the destruction of old growth forests of itself will release CO2 into the atmosphere, a recent study found that the total global plant mass had increased. IOW, nature had more than compensated for forest destruction (as you later predict). Sorry I’m away from my usual computer and can’t provide a link right now. I would be able to find it later if you wish.

  49. So older trees will have a less dense grain? Meaning that denser wood may come from younger trees? Yep. But only when speaking about trees.

  50. But seriously, I’ve been up close and personal with logging activities. Anyone with or without glasses looking at a block or stump will clearly see dense wood early on with wider rings as the tree ages. Lumber from the core is closely packed. Lumber taken further from the core will have a much wider grain. File this revelation under duh.

  51. Baby trees begin their life under the shadow of poppa and mamma. Or are closely planted in clear cuts by humans (I’ve planted them so I know). So under either natural or tree farm conditions they are crowded in a compact group, all competing for precious resources. Growth is slow under such fierce competition. As they grow and naturally -or otherwise- “thin”, they have more resources available thus grow quicker. Why is this new knowledge?????

  52. Mann should be happy that trees have their own “hockey stick” when it comes to carbon.

    Oh, that’s right–Mann does’t play well with others.

    Oh well…

    Preempted by nature. How fitting!

  53. As a professional forester, permit me to make a few comments on volume growth in trees. There are very many factors that affect tree volume, some of which have been mentioned above, both correctly and incorrectly:

    * Tree species does matter. Some species are tolerant of shade (maples, true firs, e.g.) so can grow and thrive in the shade of other trees. With time and no intervention in the stand, species composition will trend more and more to shade tolerant species. More species are intolerant of shade, and grow faster when they are in full sun and don’t have too much competition from their neighbors. Shade tolerance is just one aspect that varies widely between tree species, there are many more. One size does not fit all.

    *We assume that volume of a tree approximates volume of a cylinder, we use the formula Dsquared x H (diameter at breast height time height. The shape is really a frustrum of a cone. But, for trees with little taper, the difference isn’t that important.

    * The simplest way to think about this is that a 1/4″ growth ring on a tree 10″ in diameter adds much, much more volume to the tree than the same growth ring on a tree 5″ in diameter.

    * Height also factors into volume (obviously), but diameter growth is much more important.

    * Growth traits in trees typically have low heritabilities. This means that, while genetics are important, environmental factors explain most of the variation in these traits.

    *Unless the density of stocking is way high, young trees will have wider growth rings (but much less volume) than older trees. As trees grow and age, they increasingly come into competition with each other, and the width of growth rings usually gets smaller. Again however, given the increasing diameter of older trees, the growth of a smaller growth ring in an older tree still is almost always much more volume of wood than a wider ring on a younger and smaller tree.

    * Understand that green wood, on a dry weight basis, is usually 100% or more water. So, the weight of green wood is less important than the actual amount of dry wood.

    * Usually, trees grow more when those factors necessary for growth are not limiting. These main factors are sunlight, available soil moisture, nutrient availability, and temperature. In general, most temperate zone trees grow more in full sunlight, on good soils with well distributed precipitation, and warmer conditions. In my experience, cooler years are also characterized by cloudier conditions, which reduces solar input. So, a double whammy reducing growth.

  54. When we were planting (won’t tell ya how many decades ago) it was a long line of young high school kids who would move forward every big step, swing the pick ax, plant a tree, step on it. Take a big step, swing the pick ax, plant a tree, step on it. IE Dense!

  55. “Climate Scientists” “Discover” older trees grow larger! Dumb as a wooden fence post is what I see. The growth of trees and forest has been studied and known for hundreds of years or more!. They don’t need to do new studies, they just need to look up previous work by people that are Real scientists. pg

  56. I’ve seen old growth, second growth, and tree plantation stumps and blocks. The initial rings are big but then get smaller fairly quickly. After that it varies. I have spent years of my life tramping through federal and state forests as well as private stands. Natural re-growth will show clusters of closely packed young-uns. Human re-planting will show evenly spaced closely packed young-uns. But then again I am more than 1/2 a century old so who knows what the practices are these days. Anybody who is using trees as temperature thermometers better know the history of re-planting patterns and practices, both natural and man-made, if they don’t want to be laughed off the page by this little forest elf. And that ain’t from book learnin. It’s from my own two eyes.

  57. Mike Jonas on January 15, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Pete in Cumbria – I’m reasonably happy with most of your comment (Jan 15 12:41pm) but I’m not too sure about “[trees] are really just vehicles that transport CO2 and put it into the ground“. The ground under many forests is very poor – witness the very poor yields from cleared Amazon forest areas, not to mention the almost total lack of topsoil in many Australian forests. My take is that a mature forest is carbon neutral – all other things being equal in 10^n years time it will contain exactly the same amount of C – unless it is in a swamp or some other special situation which really does hold onto the C.

    There is a fundamental difference between tropical and temperare forest in carbon cycling. In the tropics you are right, carbon is almost all heeld in the plant biomas, soils are indeed poor. Hovever in temperate forest carbon cycling iis slower and there is more carbon deposition in soil.

  58. Pamela Gray says:
    January 15, 2014 at 8:10 pm (and)
    Pamela Gray says:
    January 15, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I’ve seen old growth, second growth, and tree plantation stumps and blocks. The initial rings are big but then get smaller fairly quickly. After that it varies.

    Couple of notes, though I do not profess to be a biologist, I am staying near a Holiday Inn Express tonight.

    Pine trees will begin growing at 2- 6 inches apart, spouting naturally and energetically ANYWHERE the pollen lands (even house eaves, gutters and flowerpots) until about 6-10 inches tall. After that, only the taller survive, with successive trees being killed off by the tallest until they are about 2-4 feet apart and 8-10 feet tall. (1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches diameter trunk perhaps.)

    They continue weeding out their neighbors naturally until the tops are 35 – 60 feet tall, with only the upper few feet with a “mop” of leaves in a group stand 15-20 apart at the base. At this time, the hardwoods can begin growing in the shade back on the ground, but the pines keep growing, ever more flexible but near enough to each other that the wind does not blow them all down (major storms excepted obviously.) After 75 to 100 years, the hardwoods now begin shading out the pines – which then die and leave a clump of hardwoods standing where only grass used to be. The undergrowth, unless in the rare opening where a hardwood fell down, is almost lifeless to green growth. Ivy and kudzu excepted: That overgrows EVERYTHING and within a few years will kill all that it covers. Even telephone poles and slow cows.

    Formula for a tree’s volume needs to be a cone (not a cylinder!) whose base is the diameter right at the ground.

    This “lifecycle” of trees needs to include the absence (or presence!) of the dozens of small trees NOT left alive at maturity of an old tree that were “killed” by the overgrowth of the remaining isolated tree that did survive its neighbors. Of course, all of the “missing” trees DID die and decay away back into CO2 BEFORE the few suviors were measured and weighed into the carbon cycle, right? So, where did their “young carbon” – now released as old carbon ? – go in the biologists’ summary of the remaining trees and bushes?

    The “weight” and CO2 storage of trees needs to include the roots. These do not magically “go away” in the short term of a wood products life, but may be ripped out and burned, decay away underground, turned into soil/peat/dust/coal/washed downstream as future mud, or washed all the way to the ocean to become another few microns in rgb’s undersea reservoir of mush, mud, and biologic residue on the sea floor. Roots over the long term are probably not all “stored” but the stored CO2->Carbon and sugars does not all recycle as decay.

    Where, in all of Mann’s tree-hugging measurements, does HE account for the INCREASED growth of trees and plants BECAUSE of increased CO2 in the 1950 to 2014 timeframe? If HE believes that tree ring size is proportional to temperature, and if HE believes HE has corrected for water, sunlight, fores, changes in fertilizer levels (nitrates and phosphates anyone?) then what is Mann’s specific, correlated, precise accounting for CO2 levels as they rise the past 60 years?

    .

    No one has metioned root

  59. Dendrochronology (“tree limb + time”) was hijacked by the CAGW crew (now transitioning to be known as the Ship of Fools). Still useful for dating and, knowing the tree species, for paleogeography/ecology.
    ~~~~~~~~~~

    Rud Istvan says:
    January 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm “Boise Cascade”

    Check the Co.’s history – I think they no longer grow trees.

  60. phlogiston – re “in temperate forest [..] there is more carbon deposition in soil” : interesting. Links?

  61. Isn’t this a bit obvious that trees bulk up rapidly with diameter increase? It has been some years, but I think that after 33 inches a tree doubles it,s volume with every added inch of diameter. I should know the math, but I have to admit that I am very rusty in that regard. Although, I was very good at math in my school years.

  62. From the blog: “A large tree may put on weight equivalent to an entire small tree in a year.”

    A comment: While I agree with the idea that trees make lousy Paleo-climato-makeitupaswego thermometers, I think statements like this could be made a tad more scientific. Perhaps “large”, “small”, and “may are defined in his work. If so my apologies.

    My opinion:

    The relationship between mass gain and tree size can be analyzed using the fact that the growth takes place at the periphery, the outer layer. The mass of the growing layer is proportional to circumference and therefore diameter. The rate is LINEAR.

    By contrast the total mass of the tree includes the non-growing woody core. So the cross-sectional AREA forms a nearly linear relationship with TOTAL mass including the woody core. The cross-sectional area varies as the SQUARE of the diameter.

    M = total Mass and T = time and G = annual increase in mass M
    Total M varies as D squared over T years
    M = k times Pi times D squared where k is a constant.
    delta M by delta T = G = y times 2 times D where y is a constant (by differentiation)
    G = z times D where z is a constant

    This result suggests that “A large tree may put on weight equivalent to an entire small tree in a year” if the large tree is z times the diameter of the small tree.

    A good starting hypothesis would be that the value of z depends on the thicknesses of the growing layer of the large tree and the small tree. I would expect that z might turn out to be a non-linear variable involving the ratio of the diameters of the trees and I would have to redefine this model to take that into account..

    Final comment: G = z times D seems to be what one would expect intuitively. So the real question is: Why has it taken so long to discover this. IMHO because (1) climate alarmists found it more conducive to their cause to ignore the possibility that big trees are good carbon sinks. (2) cutting down big trees and replanting is more attractive to commercial interests. (3) environmentalist get grants for planting little trees

  63. So, how does this impact Professor Turkey’s required planting of Kauri trees to offset his carbon-footprint misadventure in Antarctica ?

  64. “””””……Pamela Gray says:

    January 15, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I’ve seen old growth, second growth, and tree plantation stumps and blocks. The initial rings are big but then get smaller fairly quickly. After that it varies. I have spent years of my life tramping through federal and state forests as well as private stands. Natural re-growth will show clusters of closely packed young-uns. Human re-planting will show evenly spaced closely packed young-uns. But then again I am more than 1/2 a century old so who knows what the practices are these days. …..””””””

    Just a whippersnapper eh !

    Last time I went driving around the man made tree farm forests in New Zealand, where Doug Fir is Oregon Pine, they looked like a photoshop forest.
    A) They clear cut them, and B) they plant them like an orange orchard, on a carefully spaced map grid, or a Christmas tree farm.

    So these little Christmas trees, each grow in a clear space, in clear sunlight, and their heights are within microns of each other.

    So they grow like wild fire, in solitude, until one morning, they wake all banging into one another.

    At that point, the ground becomes as dark as a black cat in a cellar at midnight, with no sunlight ever reaching the ground.

    So now the trees cease adding new branches at the base; there’s no sun to grow leaves etc, so each little Christmas tree (actually quite big), finds itself growing on top of an AT&T tree; aka, a telephone pole, with no branches. So you can look all the way through the whole forest, with all these Christmas trees sitting way up high on poles.

    Makes the lumbering job so much more efficient. OPs will grow over 100 ft. in 35 years, in NZ.

  65. “””””…..Streetcred says:

    January 15, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    So, how does this impact Professor Turkey’s required planting of Kauri trees to offset his carbon-footprint misadventure in Antarctica ?……””””””

    Well I hope he doesn’t try planting them in Antarctica.

    I believe there is this thing called the Moko Hinau line, south of which Kauri trees simply will not grow. They grow plenty good up north.

    I have my favorite wide angle shot picture of Tane Mahuta, (the current largest Kauri) mounted in a frame made from 40,000 year old “Swamp Kauri” dug up from a long buried, and perfectly preserved ancient forest, that all got inundated in some ancient maelstrom or something. I was holding out for a 50,000 year old frame, but they were out of those at the time.

    There is so much swamp kauri being dug up that they no longer need to, (or allow) cut a live tree.

  66. Mike Jonas says:
    January 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    phlogiston – re “in temperate forest [..] there is more carbon deposition in soil” : interesting. Links?

    Here is a link to Malhi et al 1999, it looks like a good source of data for forest carbon fluxes, haven’t had time to read it all yet.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-3040.1999.00453.x/pdf

    It appears to contradict my statement that temperate forest deposits more carbon. Instead it seems that everything is greater in tropical forest – plant biomass, soil carbon, and, surprisingly, carbon cycling is slower, not faster, in the tropics, contrary to what I remember from University ecology lectures. Maybe I’m missing something – anyway have a look and see what you think.

  67. Anthony am I missing something. But this seems entirely consistent with tree ring analysis.

    It is tree ring width they measure – right? Surely, one would expect if this where a function of climate and climate remained constant during the lifetime of the tree, then the tree rings would have constant thickness. It therefore follows that, given the increasing circumference as the tree ages, that the tree would indeed put on mass in a non-linear fashion. This would need to happen would it not if tree rings were to be used as climate proxies.

    REPLY: Yes but realize that.

    1. Multiple series are used in the hockey stick
    2. No tree rings after 1962 because they weren’t cooperating
    3. The additional non-linearity means some series ending might very well be off
    4. Increased uncertainty to an already uncertain business of assuming temperature was the only driver of growth.

    -Anthony

  68. A tree may gain mass more rapidly, but it grows taller and wider. Does that have an effect on the thickness of tree rings? Do the tree rings also get thicker as the tree ages?

  69. Pamela Gray says:
    January 15, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I’ve seen old growth, second growth, and tree plantation stumps and blocks. The initial rings are big but then get smaller fairly quickly. After that it varies. I have spent years of my life tramping through federal and state forests as well as private stands. Natural re-growth will show clusters of closely packed young-uns. Human re-planting will show evenly spaced closely packed young-uns. But then again I am more than 1/2 a century old so who knows what the practices are these days. Anybody who is using trees as temperature thermometers better know the history of re-planting patterns and practices, both natural and man-made, if they don’t want to be laughed off the page by this little forest elf. And that ain’t from book learnin. It’s from my own two eyes.

    ***********

    OK, I guess in my 30+ years of forestry experience I didn’t learn anything. Just wanted to understand Forestry Professor Gray.

  70. Oh dear.

    Trees grow at the bark level, adding a layer each year.

    In order for the tree to add a constant width ring to an existing bole, it has to add more and more material each year, proportional to its age, and its height.

    So there is nothing controversial about this. Its bleedin’ obvious.

    Neither does it really have any impact on temperature versus ring width either. May things can accelerate or decelerate annual growth, including lack of water or not, general cloudiness or not, and late winters or early falls.

    Using trees as proxies for global temperatures was always dubious., This makes it neither less so not more so.

    Finally, the rate of conversion of CO2 to solid material is, all other things being equal, driven by insolation and the actual coverage of land area with vegetation. Big trees my do more, but they do so at the expense of smaller trees which do not flourish in their shade.

    I can see that vividly here, where plantations, planted for pit props around WWI now feature masses of dead small tress, that have been simply crowded out of the space by the few trees that grew fastest.

    Whereas 200 meters away,. large free standing oaks at least 300 years old have massive crowns and boles and occupy the space of 10 or more smaller trees.

  71. Juice says:
    January 16, 2014 at 5:21 am

    A tree may gain mass more rapidly, but it grows taller and wider. Does that have an effect on the thickness of tree rings? Do the tree rings also get thicker as the tree ages?
    ^^^^^^^

    It’s not an “either-or” situation. In general, unless a new forest stand gets started under overly dense conditions, trees in a young developing stand will have wider rings than older trees. But, each individual tree isn’t adding much volume, because the annual growth is being added to small diameter. As the tree grows, its overall diameter increases, such than even a smaller annual increment adds a much larger volume increment.

    However, trees in properly managed stands can maintain excellent diameter growth (wide rings) for a longer period. Eventually annual diameter increment slows, but volume increment continues to rise.

  72. ‘settled science’. We are still being suprised by the wildly moving target of TREES, yet some think they have our global climate nailed down.

    I lean toward young earth. I know, I know – I’m an idiot, moron, brainless danger to society. But the same kind of ‘elite scientists’ have declared the same ‘settled science’ in Darwinism. New findings like soft tissue in fossils, complexity of DNA, and speed of light may not be constant are automatically crammed into the established ‘truth’ no matter the cost. Just like ‘climate change’, there is no interest in being wrong on major assumptions so they cram and tamper. Oh and slander the other side (you flat-earthers).

    How can there be so much agenda and politics in Science? (see Expelled). It makes me doubt the establishment on all fronts, don’t trust anyone over 40 :>)

  73. Piltdown Mann is not a scientist but an activist out to get public tax $ to fund his Uni and his own ego. Tree ring circuses are not ‘climate indicators’ but one manifestation amongst a million variables of a complex convection system, about which the human knows very very little. Mann should be in jail for fraud. Piled on High and Deep Phd quack…..

  74. This is news? The Smithsonian continues its steady decline. First, the trees aren’t necessarily growing “faster”. They are large trees getting larger. In terms of rate of growth, a sapling may increase its size a few hundred percent in a year. Meanwhile the large tree may only increase a few percent on size, but because it is so big, that few percent is equal to many saplings. It took them years of study to figure that out, only to describe it inaccurately?

  75. Anthony

    Thanks for the reply. I probably agree with all you say. I’m not a tree expert but common sense would tell you that tree growth is a function of water supply, amount of sunshine, soil conditions as well as temperature. One only need plant two trees (same type) in different parts of a garden to see how even microgeography effects growth.

  76. Drat, messed up formatting. Here it is, correctly formatted:

    To Eustace Cranch:

    You wrote:

    Wait a minute, tree growth has to be asymptotic to zero at some point in their lifetime. Otherwise, you know, 2000-foot trees.

    First, as someone pointed out up-thread, the tree’s height is limited by the power
    of capillary action to raise the water it needs from its roots to its crown. However,
    the mature tree will continue to put on weight, which is what the original article
    was talking about.

    As to trees growing forever, you’re guilty of thinking statically. A forest is a
    dynamic environment, where things like beavers, insect infestations, diseases,
    windstorms, drought, and a horde of other factors can change. What happens
    is that the trees will grow until they are impacted by something. Over time, the
    chance of something showing up which will kill the tree increases until it becomes
    a certainty.

    A tree can even kill itself, by having a large root grow completely around the
    trunk, which “girdles” and kills the tree. I have seen this happen with older
    hardwoods.

    Mod, perchance you could remove the incorrectly-formatted first post?

  77. And this is a NEW scientific discovery?? Boy, every home gardener sees this exponential growth happen in everything in the garden; annuals, perennials, trees.

  78. In the article they make it clear that the STAND of trees (area basis) does NOT keep growing faster with age, by reaches an equilibrium after a certain point, particularly by death of trees crowded out by these big trees that they studied.
    Also, the WEIGHT of the tree that keeps getting larger with age is not the same as the RING WIDTH getting wider. As adult trees get larger, the area of new trunk added stays approximately constant, but is spread over a larger diameter each year, and thus ring width goes down each year (on average) but since the tree gets taller and has a bigger crown each year (for the dominant trees in this study) there is more mass added each year over this entire volume of trunk and branches and roots. So nothing about Mann is disproven (can’t believe I am defending dendros here–there are plenty of other problems with tree ring analysis).

  79. Two things: Craig Loehle, don’t worry, you aren’t defending Mann or his work or the work of his colleagues, you are only defending underlying science. Sleep tight!

    Secondly: I wonder what the results would have been if CO2 were still around 310 ppm? Considerably less growth and CO2 uptake, I would assume, than at nearly 400 ppm.

  80. And the width of a tree ring varies as the square of the tree diameter. It is not a linear reflection of added mass.

    • Ladies and Gentlemen.

      I think most of you including Anthony watts miss the most important point, ignoring the laps-rate,

      hiding the decline…..

      …….. of the average heighth and diameter of the quite general tree in the quite general hill-slope all over the USA and in the rest of the world.

      Which rather may have been what Michael E.Mann has been studying and telling about.

      Thus it comes maybe, if you happen to be of the flat earth- believers.

      But I have been told that there are also “Hillbillies” over there.

      ThebHillbillies do not live here, but on this side of the atlantic we have Ole Øvreby, Ole Midtby and Ole Nedreby. or Ole. Upigard, Ole. Midgard and Ole. Nedregard, all of them very trustful peasants, experienced loggers, and woodchoppers.

      Ole or Per or Pål Upigarden does plant his potatoes 4 weeks later than O or P.or P Medregard or nedrebø, and harvest them 4 weeks earlier also.

      I tend to have seen that Mr. Mann has been studying Rocky Mountains- trees, not quite arbitrary and artificially planted foreighn trees from anywhere, where the earth is flat.

      They surely have similar situations also in Germany, where the landscape may be “Alpine” because there they say: “Entweder über Unterammergau oder über Oberammergau oder überhaupt nicht über Unterammergau oder über Oberammergau.

      Just in order to make people aware of theese things

      Ober oder Unterammergau makes quite a difference you see, and there they even have Allgau for reference..

      This follows from the extreemly fameous and well known fact that the so called “clima- zones”, that you have to drive several thousand kilometers by car on the flat earth to seek up and to find, do follow in just a few hundred meters or steps uphill, or downhill, provided that the earth is not flat, so that you are able to conscider this.

      Antony Watts may be able to tell you why this is so.

      If you are aquainted to Gardening, you also rather ought to have learnt about the same. Of where you ought to invest in apples or pears and outdoor tomatoes and sunflowers and even Vitis vinifera,…, and where you rather ought to set on Ribes and tougher roses and set on what belongs in the landscape from local and wild vegetation instead.

      Also in Switzerland they have a Lapse- rate and a system of this. They also have Upigarden, Midtharden and Nedregarden, which is a very fameous, traditional and obvious situation wherever the earth is not flat.

      It can indeed also be studied by rather conventional archaeological methods and means in regard to what has happened for the last 1000 years. on Øvrebø, Medbø and on Nedrebø, by looking at the local tree- rings that have grown on those local places during that span of time and on an average for the same well chosen indicator species.

      I cannot see that you discuss this very obvious situation at all.

      But I am able to see rather clearly here in my landescape whether I have my firewood from uphill or from downhill. And see also quite clearly that local and wild species from the tempered European forests have mooved uphill and north- eastward into the Taiga during my lifetime, along with that very fameous exponential curve , the Arrhenius- curve of global warming for maybe the last 150 years. That is superposed by other effects that are also rather well known and studied in our time.

      [Reply: Moderators don’t get paid to try and figure out what this means. Does it mean too much schnapps? ~ mod.]

  81. The Smithsonian scientists don’t appear to be measuring ring widths directly. They are measuring carbon growth in the select forests. Their data comes from two source: as LKMiller (aka treegyn1) notes above, the on-the-ground “confirming” measures of select plots of trees, from which they take diameters at breast height (dbh) and multiply it by estimates of height; but the primary data-gathering is conducted via flyovers in a laser-scanning airplane. (See Greg Asner’s “Ted Talk” for an overview – it’s actually pretty cool science http://www.ted.com/talks/greg_asner_ecology_from_the_air.html ) Asner narrates how scientists record chemical action in the canopy leaves, as recorded in the infrared spectrum, and decode this in a broad spectrum of colors to show different species.

    The flyover Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data is amazing for its 3D clarity, and (apparently) shows that like species of trees within a single microclimate yield a characteristic color, determined by their leaf chemistry. Perhaps Craig or LKMiller would comment. It appears to me that trees of the same species, regardless of size or age all seem to grow at the same rate, based on the chemistry of their leaves. (See the Asner TED talk at about 3:00). This would suggest something dependable about ring widths, even if trees are in the understory – even if they are water- or nutrient-deprived. If those deprivations are widespread, they would be reflected commensurately in all members of the same species. If they do grow at the same rate, then a ring chronology developed from one fig would parallel the growth of all the other figs growing in the same microclimate at the same time. One Brazil Nut in the same area wants to propagate at roughly the same rate as all the others, etc. Given enough rings in the curve, they would represent the “reality” of their environment.

    I’ve never made sweeping claims for what ring widths demonstrate – only that they appear to reflect the common fate of trees within a particular microclimate.

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