Carbon dating.

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
As a personal ‘side’ project I’m looking to document historical fires on the southern half of my island.
I can go on and on, but it seems that the last major historic droughts in the PNW were about 500 years ago. In the last little bit of old growth seems to be fairly even aged (the biggest oldest) at 470 years old. There are many old cedar snags that are literally like chimneys that you can walk inside.
Other areas have layers of charcoal just a few inches into the soils. It’s my understanding that there was a epic fire before white folks that leveled most of the island, and since then smaller patches of fire that have left very few areas untouched.
I’ve read descriptions which made the whole puget sound seem like moridor, thousands of micro saw mills with conveyors carrying slash and sawdust into giant burn pits 24/7/365.
Down the street in the valley there is a lake, it is a peat bog, which caught fire and burned for years. Finally the farmers (likely the ones who started it) ditched and redirected a creek to put the fire out. It worked and now is a lake.
So does anyone know where a private citizen can send samples for carbon dating?
@JD3000 @Ksmith
 
I found a paper publish about this very topic from Waldron Island, so a little to the north of you. Waldron is a little wetter with about 26” average annual precipitation. They found a fire return interval of 18.4 years from 1700-1879. Which I found pretty surprising
here’s the link to the whole paper if you are interested.

 

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
I found a paper publish about this very topic from Waldron Island, so a little to the north of you. Waldron is a little wetter with about 26” average annual precipitation. They found a fire return interval of 18.4 years from 1700-1879. Which I found pretty surprising
here’s the link to the whole paper if you are interested.

Thanks, I’ve read that one and a few others. It doesn’t surprise me one bit regarding the fire history. I’ve never been there (rumor has it the locals don’t take kindly to outsiders). I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Orcas, and with the population of Garry Oak there (a stone throw from Waldron), fire/native populations seem to go hand in hand. Whidbey is stuck politically, it’s a common misconception that native folks just use the island as a summer home. I’m looking for specifics on Whidbey itself, and even more specifically the south end. There are many sites which indicate total stand clearing fires. Just down the street two fires were sparked off last APRIL by the county road crews. Just decent brush fires but did burn a few trees mid way up, the alarming part was the size and intensity for the time of year.
 

KTSmith

Well-Known Member
Evo, Sorry to be slow in the uptake here. I know we've spoken a bit about fire history in your part of the world.

The link to University of Arizona analytical lab above shows a comparable per sample cost with the facility at the University of Georgia: https://cais.uga.edu/service/radiocarbon-dating-by-ams/. About $500 a pop for most samples.

If you just search for "commercial radiocarbon analytical services", you'll get a lot of hits. As with dendrochronology, single samples are not as useful as you might think. What sort of error bars are you willing to accept? By that I mean, what sort of precision does your question require? The precision would be the "plus or minus" part. Annual, decadal, centennial resolution or ?. For most cases, Dendrochronology admits to no "plus or minus" and dating is absolute. Radiocarbon dates usually do have a plus or minus.

Let us know what you find out!
 

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
Evo, Sorry to be slow in the uptake here. I know we've spoken a bit about fire history in your part of the world.

The link to University of Arizona analytical lab above shows a comparable per sample cost with the facility at the University of Georgia: https://cais.uga.edu/service/radiocarbon-dating-by-ams/. About $500 a pop for most samples.

If you just search for "commercial radiocarbon analytical services", you'll get a lot of hits. As with dendrochronology, single samples are not as useful as you might think. What sort of error bars are you willing to accept? By that I mean, what sort of precision does your question require? The precision would be the "plus or minus" part. Annual, decadal, centennial resolution or ?. For most cases, Dendrochronology admits to no "plus or minus" and dating is absolute. Radiocarbon dates usually do have a plus or minus.

Let us know what you find out!
Thanks for the reply. I’m thinking decade would be specific enough within the past 100-200 years (post contact and logging) and a +/- 50 year beyond that. It’s not to nail down specifics, but to build a data set to articulate a point.
Many of us wet coasters think we are exempt from wild fires, coupled with the forest mismanagement, and the increase of warm season inversion flows from the east side of the mountains is foreboding. (Not to mention the, climate change word).

I’ll call up the DNR, State parks and local colleges to see if there is any location specific data in existence. I’m guessing for scientific accuracy multiple carbon samples would have to be taken from each site/tree (living or dead). That obviously could become cost prohibitive quickly, without additional sources of funding. Are you aware of anyone having interest in this on the government level? Perhaps available grants given?
 
Last edited:

Nmurphy

New Member
Location
Nashville
As a personal ‘side’ project I’m looking to document historical fires on the southern half of my island.
I can go on and on, but it seems that the last major historic droughts in the PNW were about 500 years ago. In the last little bit of old growth seems to be fairly even aged (the biggest oldest) at 470 years old. There are many old cedar snags that are literally like chimneys that you can walk inside.
Other areas have layers of charcoal just a few inches into the soils. It’s my understanding that there was a epic fire before white folks that leveled most of the island, and since then smaller patches of fire that have left very few areas untouched.
I’ve read descriptions which made the whole puget sound seem like moridor, thousands of micro saw mills with conveyors carrying slash and sawdust into giant burn pits 24/7/365.
Down the street in the valley there is a lake, it is a peat bog, which caught fire and burned for years. Finally the farmers (likely the ones who started it) ditched and redirected a creek to put the fire out. It worked and now is a lake.
So does anyone know where a private citizen can send samples for carbon dating?
@JD3000 @Ksmith
I can’t provide any help but that is really cool!
 

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