The fine art of climate change

Climatologists would love to have temperature records from centuries ago, but there were no thermometers back then — and no way to keep records.

A Southern Oregon University professor, Greg Jones, has solved this problem in a unique and unexpected way — by digitizing and calibrating the size of vineyard buds in a Hungarian village from paintings done on the same day every spring.

Jones, a member of the Power List of the world's 50 most influential people in the world of wine, traveled to Keszeg, Hungary with an Italian colleague and scanned the paintings from books dating back to 1744 — and still kept to this day.

Calibration of shoot lengths, done on SOU computers, has helped understanding of climate change in Europe and shown cold periods reaching extremes around 1817 and warm periods maxing around 1780 and 1830 — with increased sunspots matching the warmer springs, said Jones.

Measurements of the paintings show what science knows only too well, that it's gotten steadily warmer over the last 20 years.

Jones' research, to be offered as an article to professional journals, is part of SOU's annual Southern Oregon Arts and Research showcase. SOAR celebrates faculty and student research and arts and includes live performances in music and theater, open houses in several laboratories and tours or special collections at Hannon Library.

SOAR is free, open to the public and runs Tuesday through Thursday on campus. Details are at The research of Jones, who is the son of the creators of Abacela Winery in Roseburg confirms the extent to which vines are sensitive to climate, gives a snapshot of temperatures going back 266 years and is cautious not to make any pronouncements about present climate change.

"It represents March and April temperatures," says Jones, "but doesn't say anything about them in September and October — and there's no connection between spring temperature and vintage quality, which is more about summer growth and fall ripening." The detailed botanical paintings were stored in a the village and could only be handled with white gloves; they could not be removed, said Jones, noting that it was even dicey to flatten the art books and scan them, but it did preserve the images for the ages and make them available to the world.

Jones and his colleague, Diego Tomasi of Veneto, Italy were in Koszeg for the Festival of St. George's Day, an event every April 24, in which town folk parade from the village center to each vineyard, combining cultural, artistic and scientific interests, along with plenty of wine drinking, said Jones.

The budding shoots vary with each vintage, some just stubs and others many inches long, and all drawn to the same scale over the centuries.

SOAR opens at noon Tuesday with speakers, music and dance in Stevenson Union Courtyard, followed by a display of educational innovations at the school. Laboratory open houses are 3 to 5 p.m., with student film festival 7 to 9 p.m.

On Wednesday, University Seminar presentations are from 10 to 3 in the Union and library, with music and theater from noon to 5 in the Music Recital Hall.

On Thursday, faculty, staff and students will display and discuss their work throughout the Union. It includes a presentation on immunotherapy for cancer patients by senior Andrea Matson, who is headed for medical school. Matson became interested in the subject when she was diagnosed with lymphoma last year. Her research focuses on removing immune cells from the body, modifying them to become cancer-fighting cells and then reintroducing them to the body.

Mental health graduate student Dawn Ogle gives a presentation Thursday on veterans who use traditional Native American practices such as powwows and sweat lodge ceremonies to control post traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism.

Computer science students and their instructor, Lynn Ackler, will discuss a computer forensics project they worked on involving U.S. Homeland Security, the Oregon National Guard and the State Police. The authorities detonated an explosive in a car and a suitcase at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls. SOU students then did a crime scene investigation and examined the evidence in the lab.

Native American self-identity and the challenge of building self-esteem are the subjects of a poster presentation by Jeff Proulx, a Native American from Ashland. Proulx recently received a Ford Fellowship for research that will enable him to enroll in the doctoral program in Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University.

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