The more things change… Some history of the use of tree-ring science by water resource managers in the western US

Authors: Adam Csank*, University of Nevada - Reno
Topics: Natural Resources, History of Geography, Environmental Science
Keywords: Dendrochronology, water resource management, Truckee River
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Marshall East, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The earliest published example of the use of tree-ring records in water resource management was conducted in 1936 by Hardman and Riel (1936) on the Truckee River. At that time much of the US was experiencing an unprecedented drought coming immediately following huge investments in dams and reservoirs throughout the west and it was recognized that instrumental records of water resources were too short to ascertain whether a drought of that magnitude was unusual. By examining archival collections of G. Hardman and S.T. Harding I found papers and correspondence amongst irrigation specialists from the early-mid 1930’s, who at the time were coming to appreciate the value of tree rings and other paleodata in informing management decisions. Although often cited as the earliest study it is clear that many in engineers in the west were thinking about these issues prior to Hardman and Riel’s study. I have found indications that as early as the 1920’s irrigation engineers in the west had begun to see the value in tree rings as a tool to help understand past water resources. Many of the statements made in these documents are a testament to how climate extremes can drive interest in records of past conditions and an example of how the more things change the more they stay the same.

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