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Irish Met Society Public Lecture: Climate Hints from Tree Rings
05 November 2015

Professor Baille will be telling us about his work on the 7000-year-long Irish oak chronology which was constructed to allow calibration of the radiocarbon timescale.  However, once completed as an annual growth record for Irish oak, it was found to contain some evidence for extreme events.  As Ireland is a small temperate island this discovery came as a surprise especially when some of the tree ring downturns coincided with historical evidence for very unpleasant conditions for the human population.  The lecture will look at some key events, including those at AD 1740 and AD 540, and try to draw some inferences on the frequency of catastrophic environmental downturns.

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Mike Baillie is Emeritus Professor of Palaeoecology, in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University, Belfast. His original degree was in Physics before moving to Palaeoecology where he completed a doctorate entitled A dendrochronological study in Ireland with reference to the dating of medieval and post-medieval timbers. He was one of the team (with Jon Pilcher, Jennifer Hillam, David Brown and Gordon Pearson) responsible for the construction of Ireland's long oak dendrochronology and the calibration of the radiocarbon timescale. His interest in high resolution chronology prompted an interest in catastrophic environmental events that showed up in tree-ring chronologies. He was one of the first to recognise the existence of global environmental downturns as shown by synchronous growth reductions in tree-ring chronologies around the world. As a result of these observations he has spent many years attempting to reconstruct the effects of volcanic eruptions and extra-terrestrial impacts. He is recognised internationally as an expert in tree-ring studies and chronology and was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 1990.



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