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Undergraduate Arts and Research Showcase


In Kentucky, historic and paleo-climate data are limited, and current understanding of long-term climate change in the state relies on instrumental data spanning only 1895-present. Proxy data are necessary to extend the temporal and spatial span of climate information. One potential proxy source for Kentucky is tree ring data, but currently, only four such datasets are publicly available on the International Tree Ring Data Bank (ITRDB). Archaeological and archival timber sources may help to fill in this gap. In the 1940s, Florence Hawley-Ellis, the first woman dendrochronologist, collected samples of white oak (Quercus alba L.) from four counties in western Kentucky. These samples were never fully processed to develop chronologies and are currently archived at the University of Arizona Tree-Ring Laboratory. The objectives of this project were to (1) process and develop the Hawley-Ellis samples to generate new chronologies for Kentucky and (2) investigate the utility of these samples for use in paleoclimate reconstruction. We analyzed the relationship between tree growth and regional climate variables using climate-growth analyses and superposed epoch analysis (SEA), and found that the tree-ring chronologies from all four county sites are strongly and significantly sensitive to both temperature and moisture variables and that these relationships are temporally stable. These samples represent a significant amount of potential data in an understudied region that lacks datasets spanning back in time. This will increase the spatial resolution of the current tree ring network and create a more comprehensive foundation for future research.