Church Wood Gives Climate Clues

Old wood from historic churches has become a new resource for researchers hoping to reconstruct weather patterns and climate history. When the Salt Lake Tabernacle, a sacred Mormon building built from local trees beginning in 1863, was renovated in 2005 and the structural timbers were replaced with steel beams, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave Matthew Bekker, an assistant professor of geography at Brigham Young University, the opportunity to study the wood. By studying and dating the growth rings of these timbers, a science known as “dendrochronology,” Bekker discovered that when Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, it was one of the driest periods in the region’s recent history, meaning Utah’s first Anglo settlers faced the hardships of a severe drought. —Kaitlin Shimer

Category: Environment

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