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Tree Rings to Investigate Chimborazo’s Past Climate

By Jonathan Cain

Jon takes a small sample from this living tree

The landscape around Chimborazo resembles the high desert in parts of the western United States. The terrain approaching Chimborazo is arid and rocky in appearance, with mostly small grassy and shrub-like vegetation growing on it. Finding trees large enough to sample above 4000 meters was, needless to say, a bit of a challenge, but they do exist.

Jon and Eugene take notes

We’re looking for a grove of Polylepis trees that we spotted from the road yesterday, but instead happened upon an even more ideal site at a slightly higher elevation. The trees are not tightly clustered and they spread to the far end of a ridge.


The wide-area gives us better sample variability—in all sixteen trees in about two hours—and despite the wet weather it’s a great day in the field. And, who knew that trees growing in sandy soil would be this saturated with water on the inside? There’s doubt that these trees can tell us much about the past climate of Chimborazo, but we’re hopeful.

The people that helped make this possible could not have been more supportive. And, the final outcome of this project I have to say is a dream come true. Thank you to Pablo and our guides, my new Irish friends (Stephen, Eugene, Des, and Albert), and to Jinny, Kevin, and Laia.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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Anas Khasawneh
Anas Khasawneh
11 years ago

great work, wish you the best

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