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News Release 06-131

Tree Rings Provide a 200-Year-Old Hurricane Record

Information extends analyses of weather cycles, human impact

Oxygen isotopes in tree-rings can record hurricane activity up to 400 years ago.

Oxygen isotopes in tree-rings can record hurricane activity up to 400 years ago.

September 19, 2006

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Scientists have shown that an age-old "database"--tree rings--contains surprisingly accurate information about hurricane activity that occurred hundreds of years ago. By measuring different chemical forms of oxygen present in the rings, researchers identified periods when hurricanes hit areas of the Southeast more than 100 years before modern records were kept.

The technique allows scientists to extend from decades to centuries the time-frames of intense hurricane cycles and may help determine if the increase in the number of hurricanes hitting the Southeast since the mid-1990s is part of a regularly occurring cycle or due to causes such as global climate change.

Their research is being published in the Sept. 18, early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the University of Tennessee (UT).

To read the UT news release, go to


Media Contacts
Jay Mayfield, University of Tennessee, (865) 974-2225, email:
Leslie Fink, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-5395, email:

Principal Investigators
Claudia Mora, University of Tennessee, (865) 974-2366, email:

Henri Grissino-Mayer, University of Tennessee, (865) 974-6029, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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