Tree Ring Dating | The Institute for Creation Research

Tree Ring Dating

Several species of trees live almost indefinitely. The giant sequoia trees of California are known to live over 3,000 years, discerned through tree ring dating. Under normal circumstances, woody trees add one ring per year. A ring typically consists of a light-colored growth portion and a dark-colored portion produced in a stabilization season. However, some trees do not produce annual rings at all, especially those in temperate or tropical regions.

Overlapping and correlating rings have been used to produce “chronologies” of past years. Linear sequences of rings are obtained by cross-matching tree ring patterns from living trees and those from older dead wood. A well-known study involved bristlecone pine trees in California’s White Mountains, but others have employed oak trees in south Germany and pine trees from Northern Ireland. Most chronologies only go back a few centuries, but a few give longer ages than the Bible seems to allow, supposedly up to 10,000 years or so.

Tree rings are more than a record of years. Year-to-year variation in the width of rings records information about the growth conditions in the particular year. Insect infestation clearly manifests itself, as does disease or fire damage. Each of these interrupts the normal growth cycle. Day length, amount of sunshine, water potential, nutrients, age of tree, temperature, rainfall, height above ground, and proximity to a branch all impact tree growth and tree ring production. By assuming the outer ring records the most recent year and that each ring signals one year, a researcher can determine the “date” of a particular ring simply by counting rings.

But how valid is the assumption of one ring per year in a climate where tree-growing conditions are variable? That very assumption is regularly put to the test by research foresters.1 They investigate how a tree grows, how and when it adds a new ring, effect of nutrients, rainfall, etc., over a range of related conditions.

Hundreds of individual trees have been observed over multi-year periods. Researchers monitor tree growth by attaching sensitive probes onto and into actively growing trees. Measurements are sometimes taken every fifteen minutes throughout the years of study! These are not mere ring-counting efforts on living and dead trees, but an observation of living trees and how they react to ambient conditions—how and when they make a ring.

It has been found that all trees, even slow-growing ones, respond dynamically to tiny environmental changes, even hourly changes in growing conditions. Scientists have observed that numerous “normal” conditions can produce an extra ring or no ring at all. Weather was fingered as the most “guilty” culprit. Unusual storms with abundant rainfall interspersed with dry periods can produce multiple rings, essentially one per major storm. Thus, the basic assumption of tree ring dating is demonstrably in error. Can we trust the overlapping calibration curves?

As it pertains to Flood model considerations, remember that the centuries immediately following the Flood witnessed the coming of the Ice Age. All trees growing on the continents were recently sprouted, actively growing trees. The still-warm oceans rapidly evaporated seawater, thus providing the raw material for major monsoonal-type storms. Earth was ravaged by frequent and wide-ranging atmospheric disturbances, dumping excessive snowfall in northern regions and rainfall to the south. If ever there was a time when multiple rings could develop in trees, this was it. Those centuries probably produced tree ring growth that was anything but annual.Thus, far from disproving biblical history, tree ring studies provide supportive and instructive information about true history.

Reference

  1. See Downes, G. 2010. Tree Rings, Dating and Changing Climates. DVD. Creation Ministries International.

* Dr. Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Morris, J. 2012. Tree Ring Dating. Acts & Facts. 41 (10): 15.

The Latest
NEWS
Greenland Lakebed Fits Flood Narrative
Scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Observatory discovered an enormous ancient lakebed beneath the ice on Greenland.1 Although scientists...

NEWS
Inside December 2020 Acts & Facts
What is ICR’s mission? Why are volunteers vital to our ministry? How do you prepare for creation ministry? What legacy does Dr. Henry M. Morris...

ACTS & FACTS
Perhaps Today!
When I was a young boy, I remember a small, humble plaque that hung on the wall in my grandfather’s ICR office directly opposite his desk. Painted...

APOLOGETICS
December, Winter Weather, and Washington
Wintry-mix weather dominated Christmas night in 1776 as General George Washington and his boat-ferried troops crossed the Delaware River to surprise...

ACTS & FACTS
How Do I Prepare for Creation Ministry?
Many of today’s creation researchers can testify that information from the Institute for Creation Research sparked a burning, lifelong passion...

ACTS & FACTS
Dr. Henry M. Morris III: A Kingdom-Focused Life
Dr. Henry M. Morris III has been at the heart of the Institute for Creation Research’s ministry work for decades, using his gifts as a leader,...

DISCOVERY CENTER
Volunteering God's Creation Truth
“Welcome to the ICR Discovery Center!” Kerry greets the guests with a smile as they walk into the exhibit hall. “Is this your first...

ACTS & FACTS
Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?
Scott Arledge and Brian Thomas, Ph.D. “The odds that we are in base reality is one in billions,” says famed inventor Elon Musk.1...

ACTS & FACTS
Osteostracans Aren't Ancestors
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis...

ACTS & FACTS
The Fossils Still Say No: The Cambrian Explosion
The modern theory of evolution has its roots in Charles Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species, in which he proposed the fundamental conjecture...