Digging Deep To Test For Droughts

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JASPER, Tennessee (WDEF)- TVA and UT at Knoxville conducted a field study today to collect tree ring data to predict drought conditions.

Currently, our drought records only go back 100 years.

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However, TVA and a University of Tennessee at Knoxville doctoral student are trying to figure out if there is a drought that we may have missed up to 600 years ago.

Laura Smith, who is a PhD student at the UTK, takes a sample of the core of an Eastern Red Cedar tree to not only determine drought history, but to also determine the age of the tree.

Smith survey’s up to 30 trees at a time and will have surveyed more than 300 trees in Tennessee before the project is over.



Smith says, “We’ll be analyzing the tree rings to help understand their response to water availability and what we can learn about historic water availability in the region.”

Tennessee is a very water rich region.

It is important to take periodic checks of current water levels not only for drinking, but for analyzing drought history as well.

The last major drought in this area occurred in 2007.

TVA’s lead hydrologist, Curtis Jawdy says, “We can use that information to make better decisions for the cities and the industries that depend on us to provide reliable water.”

None of the samples collected hurt the trees, Smith and the team use special tools to retrieve the core samples.

Red cedars are known for their drought sensitivity.

Laura and the TVA team will collect all of the data from around the state before they have a final analysis.

TVA is seeking the public’s help with finding red cedars all around Tennessee.

They are encouraging the public to collect search on public lands such as dam reservations, state parks and campgrounds.

To join Cedar Seekers, all you have to do is download the iNaturalist app on your mobile phone and you can upload a photo or video that you may find on your Cedar Seekers journey.