Tree heights can be approximated to a fairly high degree precision using a laser rangefinder, presuming that one obtains accurate measurements, using a method known as the laser sine method .
While some rangefinders made specifically for forestry purposes may have a built in height calculator, I personally own a more inexpensive model that does not have this built in.
I am building a very simple Android app that can perform these calculations for the very few other tree enthusiasts out there who would like to have a way of knowing how tall a tree is at the time of taking measurements. The apk can be downloaded here and the source code for this project is an open source project on GitHub.
Feel free to follow me on monumentaltrees.com. Happy tree hunting!
A bit of background for the curious
Redwoods are the world’s current tallest trees, though it is a subject of debate as to whether or not this was historically the case as there are many records from the logging days that claim heights of douglas firs up to 465 feet tall (see also Redwoods: Only The Tallest Because the Rest Have Been Logged.
The current tallest non-redwood tree in North America is a douglas fir located in southwestern Oregon. Nearly 330 feet tall, the Doerner Fir is still over 50 feet shorter than the tallest redwood, though perhaps what is more interesting to note on that matter is that there are at least ~4 known redwoods over 370 ft tall.
. As you go into the 360-370ft range for redwoods, and further down, the number of known redwoods in that height range increases exponentially.
There are likely many “undiscovered” douglas-fir exceeding 300 ft.
The percentage of remaining old growth forests in Oregon and Washington state (and British Columbia, for the matter) is roughly approximate to the percentage of remaining old growth redwood. However, the distribution of old growth over this non-redwood region, in particularly the segments of old growth that might contain exceptionally tall trees, is much more scattered than the areas known to contain the tallest redwoods. Douglas-fir have a gigantic range in comparison. Combined with the fact that relatively little effort has been expended on the discovery of these trees, since they would not be even potential candidates of being “the” world’s tallest, leads me to conclude that the number of undiscovered (i.e. not recognized with an official height measurement) tall trees is probably very high.
I have built this app to aid me as I am going on a trip next weekend to an area known to contain some of the tallest and largest and best preserved groves of trees in the region. I will report back my findings, likely on monumentaltrees.com.
Over the past two years I have searched for tall trees in Mt. Rainier National Park (including the Grove of the Patriarchs) in WA and Cathedral Grove in BC. This led me to the measuring a tree that was slightly over 200 ft. tall, which I named after the creek to which it grew along. While those areas contained some of the greatest old-growth in the region, they did not contain any exceptionally tall trees in relation to the tallest known still standing today. Thus, I search elsewhere.