Application of Tree-Ring Analysis to Paleoseismology

  • Gordon C. Jacoby
Part of the Advances in Global Change Research book series (AGLO, volume 41)


Knowledge of the seismicity for a region is one of the keys to estimating earthquake hazards. Unfortunately, historical records are generally inadequate for evaluations of seismicity. Paleoseismology addresses this problem using various techniques for determining the times and locations of earthquake disturbances. Trees, with widespread geographical distribution, identifiable annual-growth increments, and sensitivity to environmental changes, can provide an almost unique tool for dating past earthquake events. Geomorphic and hydrologic changes and dynamic stress resulting from earthquakes can cause a variety of effects in trees and communities of trees. Tree-ring analysis can (1) produce the actual year and sometimes the season for disturbance events and (2) establish synchronicity for events that may be beyond the range of absolute calendar dating. Tree-ring dating or dendrochronology is used to establish exact dates based on patterns of annual-ring variations through time. Mere counting of rings is inadequate and may lead to errors in assigning dates to rings because of possible missing, micro, or false rings. Trees ranging in age from 300–500 years grow in many places and can be used to identify previously unknown seismic events or to better define events that are partially known. Longer time spans can be covered in some instances. Earthquakes may be more precisely located in space and time or have their magnitudes and displacements better estimated by analysis of tree rings. A number of studies have established the validity of tree-ring application to paleoseismology but only a few studies have contributed new information to the paleoseismic record. A review of the application of tree-ring analysis to paleoseismology is in Jacoby (1997). The science should now move from the discovery phase to a wider application phase. Successful applications will add important information to the records of seismicity and the evaluation of earthquake hazards.


Tree Ring Surface Rupture Tension Wood Tsunami Deposit Reaction Wood 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tree-Ring Laboratory, Lamont-Doherty Earth ObservatoryColumbia UniversityPalisadesUSA

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