The analysis of carbon and oxygen isotopes embedded in tree rings can reveal information about past climate events, Canadian scientists have claimed.

Researchers at Carleton University said that carbon and oxygen isotope analysis is a good way to measure past climate change as it can provide accurate data on past events.

Although, scientists have long looked at the width of tree rings to estimate temperature levels of past years but strong correlation between the carbon and oxygen data and temperatures has been found for the first time.

In the study published in the journal of Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, the team led by Trevor Porter compared temperature data collected in Inuvik, Northern Canada with their own analysis of isotopes found in white spruce trees in the Mackenzie Delta region.

“Width of rings can vary considerably between trees even when they are growing in the same stand. This variation can complicate reconstructions of past climate,” Porter said.

He said, “Growth is controlled by many things... they (trees) can all end up just a little bit different but Isotope signals, on the other hand, are often very similar between trees“.

This means researchers can gather accurate data from three or four trees instead of the 20 they might need for tree ring width analysis, he added.

Isotope analysis allows researchers to conduct their work using a smaller sample size than needed when trying to re-construct temperature records using tree ring width.