World of Thermo… Story 21…Tree Ring Circus

Story 21.                  Tree Ring Circus

“Come on Fluffy, I know its dry, but you can hold out a little longer over the desert. We need to get these bristlecone pine core specimens back to Dr. Cape in Tucson before dark,” panted Puffy.

Fluffy said, “I’m fine but sweating in this heat. Come on Puffy, don’t dry up now, Dr. Carson is depending upon us to help scientists prove that global warming is due to carbon pollution.”  Thermo’s thermometer was reading well above a hundred, so he knew that his cumulus cloud friends were uncomfortable. In 1993 and 1994 due to the slight global cool down from Pinatubo’s eruption, the onus to prove that Carbo and his minions were harming humanity, in the long run, was shifting to scientific proof. Thermo in the summer of 1995 had been assigned to aid some dendrochronologists transport some tree core samplings from scrub areas in the shadow of the White Mountains southwest to the lair in Tucson, Arizona, which was the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research founded by Dr. Julius Cape in 1937. Thermo was just doing guard duty to protect the humans from Carbo’s human spies and hench molecules. Puffy and Fluffy, who Thermo hadn’t seen in a while, were tagging along.

Climatologists had to prove to the average person that the climate was warming through other means besides current warming trend averages of just the past 50 to 100 years. The field of looking back at the Earth’s climate for hundreds and thousands of years is called paleoclimatology.  Dendrochronology is one branch of paleoclimatology. Others in the field include glaciologists who look at ice core samples. The bristlecone pine samples, which were of interest for this story, were nearly 8,000 years old. In both the fictional story and in the real world, dendrochronology is very useful because it can cross date specimens of once-living material such as tree ring cores accurately to a specific year to be used as a calibration and check of radiocarbon dating before the present era. (Before present is defined by climatologists to be prior to January 1950.) The bristlecone pine, being exceptionally long-lived and slow growing, has been used for this purpose, with still-living and dead specimens providing tree ring patterns going back thousands of years.

For once, Thermo and his gang of clouds and humans had no trouble getting back to a hidden lair in Tucson. Thermo instructed the kudzu vines hiding the entrance of the underground lab to open letting in the troop. Dr. Cape was elated to get new bristlecone specimens. Cape showed off his prior work to Thermo, who by 1995 had made himself known to most of the other human heroes of climatology for their protection and use. Apparently, the Southwest had been a lot drier a thousand years ago than it was now in the late 20th century, perhaps leading to long live droughts that were the demise of several budding Indian civilizations before the arrival of the Spaniards. Dr. Cape was concerned that future warming would lead to horrible droughts from California through most of the Rockies into the western High Plains. Hetia would be very pleased…no wonder she and her buzzard friends were in cahoots with Carbo. Most climatologists predict that future global warming will lead to the desertification of a large portion of the West not to mention other arid areas of the world on the cusp of being a desert.

After a couple of days of rest and jet fuel baths within the Tucson lair Thermo, Fluffy and Puffy made their way past the Kudzu guards and flew up over the city. Fluffy spied a circus, which was in town and suggested that the trio play there for the afternoon before heading back to Hawaii. The trio floated overhead of the big top area out of site of the children and parents playing with clowns and animals. It was quite the peaceful setting. Thermo knew that this tranquil world would change very soon if he and his allies could not stop Carbo. For now, he would just enjoy a sunny, hot day in the desert.


Dendrochronology (from Greek dendron, “tree limb”, khronos, “time”; and logy, or tree-ring dating), is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings, also known as growth rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year. By examining tree ring growth patterns paleo climatologists can determine temperature and growth patterns for long periods of time in the past helping to show how warm the planet is becoming compared to what had been occurring in different regions over the past several thousand years.

Dendrochronology was developed during the first half of the 20th century originally by the astronomer A. E. Douglass (A.K.A in our fictitious story Dr. Cape), the founder of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona. Douglass sought to better understand cycles of sunspot activity and reasoned that changes in solar activity would affect climate patterns on earth which would subsequently be recorded by tree-ring growth patterns. The Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (LTRR) was established in 1937 by A.E. Douglass, founder of the modern science of dendrochronology.



The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.

My friend Alyssa Josue drew the art.

To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click:

The Climate Guy

P.S. This is a picture of me doing my own dendrochronology project in the 10th grade way back in 1977. I got “the bug” to go into the field of meteorology and later climatology then.

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