Oral history of British science

Baillie, Mike (Part 7 of 8) An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Climate History

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  • Recording locations

    Queen’s University of Belfast and interviewee’s home, Belfast

  • Interviewees

    Baillie, Mike, 1944- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 7: [1:29:37] [Session three: 22nd August 2012] Further comments of work of JP on ‘response function’, identifying preference of English/Irish oak trees for cold winters, warm Mays, realisation that these trees would not provide useful data on past climate change. [3:22] Mentions key dates of narrow tree rings in Irish oak: 3195 BC, 2345 BC, 1628 BC, 1159 BC, 207 BC and 540 AD. Comments on rough correspondence between these dates and volcanic ‘acid spikes’ in ice cores, identified and published with date ranges by Danish glaciologists in 1980, leading to own assumption then that narrow rings were caused by cooling effect of volcanic ‘dust veil’. [6:28] Brief story of attending volcanology conference in 1990. Mentions volcanologist Stephen Sparks [SS]. Comments on own paper on ‘540 event’ at volcanology conference in Hawaii, 1992. [9:45] Story of visit to ice core scientists in Climate Change Research Center, University of New Hampshire, US, early 1990s, including discovery by Gregory Zielinski’s research student of gap in ice core record. Detailed comments on effect of this discovery on own thoughts (and publication in ‘The Holocene’, 1994) about possible cometary (rather than volcanic) cause of ‘540 event’. Description of ways in which comet debris could have global environmental effects. [14:33] Comments on significance of lack of historical accounts of/relating to 540 AD, including gap in Irish annals [IA], comment in Vatican records. [17:25] Comments on actual span of ‘540 event’: 536 to 545 AD, indicating likelihood of multiple events/causes. [18:35] Comments on difficulty of identifying effects of comets in ice cores; identification of volcanic tephra in ice cores; own view of inaccuracies in ice core records. [23:21] Comments on response of ice core scientists to own comments on inaccuracies in ice core chronologies; reanalysis of European ice cores, published 2008, acknowledging two significant volcanic signals, roughly coincident with tree ring events; discussion between ice core scientists and self concerning timing of ice core signals in relation to 536 AD and 540 AD. [29:50] Comments on even greater difficulty in understanding/explaining earlier tree ring events. [30:37] Story of development of interest in volcanic tephra markers in relation to established peat bog palynology/chronology, QUB; use of ice core samples in collaborative work concerned with tephra, including own participation. [36:44] Story of 1989 conference on Santorini, Greece, regarding eruption of Thera, organised by archaeologist Colin Renfrew. Mentions SS. Comments on recent work suggesting possible eruption of Thera in 17th Century, against archaeological arguments. [46:17] Detailed comments on enjoyment of participation in conference debates, including wider comments need to raise awareness/encourage testing of own ideas. [50:21] Comments on time spent at Santorini conference outside of formal sessions, including field trips, story of conversation with SS. Comments on concerns about effect of future eruption of Yellowstone Volcano. [58:58] Further comments on relations between dendrochronology and volcanology. [1:00:40]

  • Description

    Interview with Dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie

  • Related transcripts

    Mike Baillie interviewed by Paul Merchant: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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