Analysis of tree rings aids drought forecasters in Utah

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PROVO, Utah – Researchers at Brigham Young University and Utah State University are using tree rings to study drought conditions in Utah's history.

Matt Bekker is an associate professor of geography at BYU who has been studying tree rings for years, and he said those rings can give us insight into history.

“Our whole goal is to try to increase the spatial and temporal coverage of tree ring records in the area, recognizing what that can give us in terms of taking the record of water resources farther back in time,” he said.

Bekker and others are reconstructing water level records for rivers and lakes in Utah by using tree rings.

“The benefit the tree ring record offers, it gives us a better, longer record to build into those models so that we can improve our forecasts,” he said.

Humans have kept records of water levels for about a hundred years in Utah, but Bekkers work is adding to that body of knowledge. A team at Utah State University is using those records to create better models for forecasting.

"We are trying to work with water managers in the region to help them prepare for what kind of droughts we might see the future,” Bekker said.

Bekker said he hopes the insight his research offers allows people to better understand and prepare for long periods of drought. For more information on the study, click here.