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Tree rings

I was fascinated to learn that trees store more information than I previously realized. Tree rings tell at least two stories. The first, which we probably all learned in school, is the age of the tree, represented by the tree rings. The second, that I was unaware of, is a look at the environment that surrounded the tree during its lifetime. Each year a tree adds a new layer of growth in the form of bark. These layers of the tree appear as rings. A narrow tree ring represents a year of bad weather and a wide ring a year of good weather. Good weather = good tree growth = a wider tree ring.

The tree tells you a story about itself, but that same story tells you something about its surroundings. In the United States modern record-keeping for the weather began in 1891. Yet, Mike Baillie, a dendrochronologist, devised a computer program that matches the patterns of tree rings from around the world providing a measure of weather data going back some 7,400 years. Of course, tree ring analysis provides far less detail than modern weather data record keeping. Nevertheless, with his tree ring insights, he extended the available data pool by over 7,000 years.

Fascinating to think that there are potentially decades or more of weather data sitting in our yards and thousands of years of it in forests around the world. It makes me wonder what other metaphorical tree rings are around us in our organizations, environment, and lives.

What other things are inconspicuously storing information that can be analyzed and turned into insights?


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