Welcome to the Ohio Governor's Residence Museum and Heritage Gardens

"Tree Cookies" at the Heritage Garden

By Anna Taft

Bluffsview Elementary School looking at Tree Rings

Tree rings, such as can be seen in the tree slices in the Heritage Garden's Appalachian area, show evidence of weather patterns. Each ring represents one year of the tree’s growth, and narrower rings mean a drier growing season, while wide rings indicate more rain.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, Ohio scientist Edwin Moseley studied these rings and developed a theory for predicting long-range weather patterns. He studied tree rings from all the north-central states and included data from as far back as 1548. He noticed that the patterns repeated approximately every 90.4 years. In 1936, when he retired from Bowling Green State University, he predicted that the next 45 years would be wetter than the last few “Dust Bowl” years. He accurately foresaw a drought in New York for the summer of 1939 and a Midwest-wide drought from 1946-47. His predictions for 2006 indicate a wet spring.

Ronald Stuckey, a retired botany professor from Ohio State University has studied Moseley’s work extensively and recently published a book entitled: Predicting Droughts and Floods: Edwin L. Mosely’s Essays on Long-Range Weather Forecasts. Stuckey has used Moseley’s methods to make further predictions and expects a wet period from 2007-2013 and then a dry time until 2031.

Scientists today use tree-ring data to study past climates but not to make predictions. Paul Sheppard of the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research agrees that cyclical patterns can be seen, however, and attributes these to ocean temperature cycles that heavily influence climate in the southwestern states.

The two tree "cookies", or slices of tree trunks found in the Appalachian area of the Heritage Garden are from 114 year old oak trees that grew in Shawnee State Forest in Southern Ohio. The larger one shows how two trees grew together, but even that does not account for the vast difference in size. They visually indicate the impact growing conditions, such as light and water and soil depth, can have. These trees were saplings when Benjamin Harrison, who was born in North Bend, Ohio, was President of the United States.

Source: Lafferty, Mike. “Long-dead weather forecaster’s theories still ring true,” The Columbus Dispatch, 1 April 2005.

Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden
358 North Parkview Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43209