• Scott St. George

    Environmental volatility | Paleoclimate | Natural hazards

    I am a Canadian climate scientist/geoscientist with 20+ years experience in water security, climate change and natural hazards. Currently I am Head of Weather and Climate Research at WTW, where I am responsible for partnerships between industry. academia, and other research centers to better understand climate- and weather-related risks now and in the future. I am also a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany.


    Prior to joining WTW, I was Associate Professor (with tenure) in the Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota. I was also a Fellow with the Institute on the Environment and Institute for Advanced Study. Previously, I was a Research Scientist in the Geological Survey of Canada at Natural Resources Canada and Adjunct Professor in the School of Environmental Studies at Queen’s University (Canada).


    I received my doctorate in geosciences from the University of Arizona, where I was affiliated with the Department of Geosciences and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. I hold an M.Sc. in Geography from the University of Western Ontario and a B.Sc. in Geography from the University of Winnipeg.

  • Announcements & news

    Our latest products, upcoming meetings, and research opportunities.
    This Fall semester, I’m excited to be teaching a new course on catastrophe risk management. Born out of the insurance and reinsurance industries, “Cat Risk Management” blends together climate science, hazard science, financial and demographic data, and GIS in order to estimate the potential...
    Last month I was interviewed about a charming effort by researchers at the Australian National University to sonify the great Murray River. That story, which was featured on ABC's Science Friction radio program, illustrated how ANU scientists and students were using sound to map the hydrological ...
    I'm very lucky to have been selected as a Residential Faculty Fellow with the University of Minnesota’s Instute for Advanced Study for next academic year. That support, which grants me a semester-long release for teaching, will allow me to get started writing a book on the ‘coming age of...
    More Posts


  • Recent and forthcoming publications

    A complete list of my publications and other work is available via my c.v. [PDF], as well as my Google Scholar and ResearchGate profiles.

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    Dating historic log buildings in the Fargo-Moorhead area of North Dakota and Minnesota, USA

    Joseph Zeleznik, Matthew Schlauderaff, Judith Avilia, Scott. St. George (in preparation)

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    Tropical dendroecology: Approaches, applications, and future prospects

    Adolfo Quesada-Román, Juan Antonio Ballesteros-Cánovas, Markus Stoffel, Christophe Corona, Scott St. George (in review)

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    The need for paleoflood investigations on the American reach of the Red River of the North

    Sc0tt St. George, Joseph Zeleznik, Matthew Schlauderaff, Judith Avila (2021) [DOI]

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    The influence of decision-making in tree ring-based climate reconstructions

    Ulf Büntgen and 39 others, Nature Communications 12, 3411 (2021) [DOI] {University of Cambridge]

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    The dendroclimatological potential of Common yew (Taxus baccata L.) from southern Azerbaijan

    Farid Seyfullayev, Scott St. George, Vahid Farzaliyev, Sébastien Guillet, Markus Stoffel, Uday Kunwar Thapa, Tree-Ring Research 77, 32-37, 2021 [DOI]

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    Quantifying spatial and temporal relationships among tree-ring records

    Megan Heyman, Scott St. George, Snigdhansu Chatterjee, Statistics and Applications 18, 163-185, 2020 [DOI]

    Evidence of exceptional floods can be preserved in geological and botanical archives for centuries or millennia. Updated guidelines offer a new opportunity to apply lessons from paleoflood hydrology to better gauge the odds of future floods.

    Paleofloods stage a comeback

    Scott St. George, Amanda Hefner, Judith Avila, Nature Geoscience 13,766–768, 2020 [DOI]

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    Poleward excursions by the Himalayan subtropical jet over the past four centuries

    Uday Thapa, Scott St. George, Valerie Trouet, Geophysical Research Letters 47, e2020GL089631, 2020 [DOI]

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    Does signal-free detrending increase chronology coherence in large tree-ring networks?

    Mara McPartland, Scott St. George, Greg Pederson, Kevin Anchukaitis Dendrochronologia 63, 125755, 2020 [DOI]

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    Increased drought intensity tracks warming in the United States’ largest river basin

    Justin Martin, Greg Pederson, Connie Woodhouse, Ed Cook, Greg McCabe, Kevin Anchukaitis, Erica Wise and twelve others, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 201916208, 2020 [DOI] [PNAS Commentary] [Washington Post] [New York Times] [EurekAlert]

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    A global perspective on the climate-driven growth synchrony of neighboring trees

    Ernesto Tejedor, Roberto Serrano-Notivoli, Martín de Luis Arrillaga, Miguel Ángel Saz Sánchez, Claudia Hartl, Scott St. George, Ulf Büntgen, Andrew Liebhold, Mathias Vuille, Jan Esper, Global Ecology and Biogeography 29, 1114-1125, 2020 [DOI] [Phys Org]

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    Climate dipoles as continental drivers of plant and animal populations

    Ben Zuckerberg, Courtenay Strong, Jalene LaMontangne, Scott St. George, Julio Betancourt, Walt Koenig, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 35, 440-453 [DOI] [W News] [Eos} [DePaul]

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    Differing pre–industrial cooling trends between tree rings and lower–resolution temperature proxies

    Lara Klippel, Scott St. George, Ulf Büntgen, Paul Krusic, Jan Esper, Climate of the Past 16, 729–742, 2020 [DOI]

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    The limits of freely-available tree-ring chronologies

    Bethany Coulthard, Scott St. George. David Meko, Quaternary Science Reviews 234, 102664, 2020 [DOI]

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    Boosting the signal in scientific talks

    Scott St. George, Michael White, Nature 579, 621-622, 2020 [DOI]

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    1200 years of Upper Missouri River streamflow reconstructed from tree rings

    Justin Martin, Gregory Pederson, Connie Woodhouse, Edward Cook, Gregory McCabe, Kevin Anchukaitis, Erika Wise and twelve others, Quaternary Science Reviews 224, 105971, 2019 [DOI]

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    Warfare dendrochronology: Trees witness the deployment of the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway

    Claudia Hartl, Scott St. George, Oliver Konter, Lorenz Harr, Denis Scholz, Andreas Kirchhefer, Jan Esper, Anthropocene 27, 100212, 2019 [DOI] [BBC Science] [Eos] [As It Happens] [Smithsonian Magazine] [El Pais] [Botany One]

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    Detecting climatic and human influences in the dry pine forests of eastern Nepal’s Koshi River basin

    Uday Thapa, Scott St. George. Forest Ecology and Management 440, 12-22, 2019 [DOI]

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    The weight of the flood-of-record in flood frequency analysis

    Scott St. George, Manfred Mudelsee, Journal of Flood Risk Management 12, e12512, 2019 [DOI]

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    A 1200+ year reconstruction of temperature extremes for the northeastern Mediterranean region

    Lara Klippel, Paul Krusic, Oliver Konter, Scott St. George, Valerie Trouet, Jan Esper, International Journal of Climatology 39, 2336-2350, 2019 [DOI]

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    Concord and discord among Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstructions from tree rings

    Scott St. George, Jan Esper, Quaternary Science Reviews 203, 278-281, 2019 [DOI]

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    Interpreting historical, geological, and botanical evidence to aid preparations for future floods

    PAGES Floods Working Group, WIREs Water e1318, 2019 [DOI]

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    Unravelling the mysteries of megadrought

    Toby Ault, Scott St. George, Physics Today 71, 44-50, 2018 [DOI] [Physics Today companion]

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    Mississippi rising

    Scott St. George, Nature 556, 34-35, 2018 [DOI] [Scientific American] [Washington Post]

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    A robust null hypothesis for the potential causes of western megadrought

    Toby Ault, Scott St. George, Jason Smerdon, Sloan Coats, Justin Mankin, Carlos Carillo, Ben Cook, Samantha Stevenson, Journal of Climate 31, 3-24, 2018 [DOI] [Eureka Alert] [Cornell Chronicle] [Newsweek] [Physics Today]




    As a mentor, I promote academic and professional development through examples drawn from my own experience working in universities and government and by guiding students to learning opportunities outside of their formal classes. As advisor, it’s my responsibility to be available for regular conversations about their projects (at least weekly, if not more often), provide timely and specific feedback on research products, and help them secure the equipment, permits, and resources they need to conduct their research. I try to help my students develop projects that are scientific interesting and socially relevant, and aim to give them enough responsibility so that they come to think of me as a guide rather than an authority or arbiter. I’m most proud of the fact that every single alumnus from our group (undergraduate and graduate) has found employment with universities, non-profit organizations, or federal and state agencies in positions that are directly connected to their skills and training.

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    Mara McPartland

    Ph.D. in Geography (in progress)

    M.Sc. in Natural Resource Science and Management, 2017

    B.L.A in Ecology, Bennington College, 2012

    Dissertation title: Developing a paleoclimate framework for multi-decadal estimation of spring timing

    Future position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Alfred Wegener Institute

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    Mahsa Mirzakhani

    Ph.D. in Geography (in progress)

    M.Sc. in Environmental Science, Isfahan University of Technology, 2020

    B.Sc. in Natural Resources Engineering, Payame Noor University of Shahrekord, 2016
    Dissertation topic: Dendrohydrology in Iran

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    Judith Avila

    M.A. in Geography (in progress)

    B.Sc. in Geological Sciences, California State University - Fullerton, 2019
    Thesis topic: Paleohydrological assessment of extreme flooding events

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    Sandy Wong

    M.A. in Geography (in progress)

    B.Sc. in Earth System Science & Geography, University of Hong Kong, 2022
    Thesis topic: Building a global atlas of dreadful frosts during the past two millennia

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    Lo Hansen

    B.Sc. in Geography (in progress)
    Undergraduate research project:: Historical accounts of 19th century floods in Minnesota's upper Mississippi and Red River basins

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    Uday Kunwar Thapa

    Ph.D. in Geography, 2020

    M.Sc. in Environmental Science, Golden Gate International College, 2013

    B.Sc. in Environmental Science, College of Applied Science-Nepal, 2010

    Dissertation title: Investigating changes in forest growth and atmospheric circulation in the Himalayan region during the past four centuries

    Current position: Climate Change Scientist, CoreLogic

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    Amanda Hefner

    M.A. in Geography, 2020

    B.Sc. in Geography and GISc, University of North Dakota, 2017

    Thesis title: Holocene paleofloods in the United States and their relevance to flood mitigation, hazard assessment and policy

    Current position: Regional Campaign Organizer, Save the Boundary Waters

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    Dr. Farid Seyfullayev

    Fulbright Visiting Scholar, 2018

    Award title: Studying climate change and reconstruction of past climate, floods and extreme events in Azerbaijan

    Current position: Research scientist, Central Botanical Garden of Azerbaijan {Fulbright Program]

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    Xinran Duan

    B.Sc. in Mathematics, 2018

    Undergraduate research project: Quantifying long-term trends in the Red River of the North

    Current position: Data Engineer, Target

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    Jacob Arndt

    B.Sc. in Geography, 2016

    Undergraduate research project: Climate variability and its relationship with air travel times in the Seattle-Minneapolis corridor

    Current position: Research Associate, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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    Dan Crawford

    B.Sc. in Geography, 2015

    Undergraduate research project: Expressing global temperature change through music

    Current position: Research technician, University of Alaska [Slate] [New York Times]

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    Sarah Appleton

    M.A. in Geography, 2015

    B.A. in Geology, College of Wooster, 2012

    Thesis title: Mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) growth and cool-season precipitation in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

    Current position: Education Product and Programs Specialist, National Geographic

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    Emily Smoter

    B.Sc. in Plant Biology, 2014

    Directed research project: Growth boundaries of Swietenia macrophylla and Cedrela odorata from a subtropical dry forest in Guanacaste, Costa Rica and their potential application in dendrochronology

    Current position: State Environmental Manager, Minnesota Air National Guard

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    Xiaolu (Grace) Li

    M.A. in Geography, 2014

    B.Sc. in Geography, B.E. in Economics, Beijing University, 2012

    Thesis title: Assessing forward modeling of tree-ring growth and the impacts of non-climatic factors on tree-ring width in the Northern Hemisphere

    Current position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Cornell University

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    Max Torbenson

    M.A. in Geography, 2013

    B.Sc. in Archaeology/Palaeoecology, Queen's University (Belfast), 2011

    Thesis title: Assessing the response of upper montane forests to decadal variability in winter precipitation

    Current position: Research Associate, Johannes Gutenberg University

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    Erika Wertz

    B.Sc. (Honors) in Geography, 2012
    Thesis title: Testing whether vessel characteristics in bur oak can serve as proxies for severe Red River floods within the United States

    Current position: Forest Health Specialist, Idaho Department of Lands [CLA Alumni interview]




  • Visual aids

    I regularly lecture on climate change, water resources, tree rings, and scientific presentations. Visual aids for some of my recent talks are available to view online at Slideshare.

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    Boosting the signal in scientific talks

    A good talk can open the doors to new collaborations, increase your chances of funding success, and make it more likely other people will respond to your ideas. But scientific presentations are too often confusing, boring, and overstuffed. Here are some suggestions, based on our experience as speakers, audience members, and presentation trainers, that we hope will make your next conference talk or seminar more enjoyable, engaging and effective.

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    Ringing true: The scientific and societal relevance of dendrochronology at the start of its second century

    Tree rings and other natural archives empower us to extend our perspective on environmental change, resources, and hazards. But many contemporary applications of paleoclimatology and paleohydrology are useful because of the lasting disruption to our collective environmental memory caused by colonization.

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    How long do trees remember?

    Much of what we know regarding variations in Earth's climate during the past millennium comes from tree rings. But tree rings, like other proxies, attenuate some climate signals but amplify others, and their fidelity at longer timescales is difficult to gage. Even though dendroclimatology is well-established, questions remain about the climate clues encoded in tree rings — particularly at decadal-to-centennial timescales.

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    Historic accounts of extreme floods on the Red River of the North

    Here I explain how Canadian and American communities along the Red River of the North have developed fundamentally different responses to the threat of flooding, and argue that these differences in flood mitigation reflect disparate experiences with particular floods during the past two hundred years.


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    Flood rings: Paleoflood evidence in tree-ring anatomy

    In low-gradient, low energy rivers, forms of tree-ring evidence such as impact scars or stem deformation do not provide useful evidence of past floods. In this talk, I explain the strengths and limitations of wood anatomy as tools in paleoflood hydrology.

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    Disentangling the decadal ‘knot’ in high-resolution paleoclimatology

    In this talk, we’ll discuss some of the challenges inherent to the use of high-resolution proxies to study decadal or multi-decadal climate variability, and suggest strategies that might clarify how climate acts on those timescales.

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    The need for new theory in global dendroclimatology

    We hope this talk will encourage the sharing of ideas on how best to extract climate information from the ever-expanding network of tree-ring records across our planet and help open a discussion on the relevance of our standard theoretical framework to contemporary global dendroclimatology.

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    Solar ghosts: Weighing the evidence for sunspot cycles in fossil trees

    In this talk, I argue the fossil tree-ring record from Chemnitz does not constitute reliable evidence of solar activity during the Permian because the individual tree-ring sequences are not correctly aligned and, as a result, the mean ring-width composite is not a meaningful estimate of year-to-year variations in tree growth in this ancient forest.

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    Long droughts: Using natural climate archives to gage the risks of future “megadroughts”

    In this short talk, I’ll describe how climate scientists combine clues from natural weather archives (including corals, tree rings, lake sediments, and many other sources) to reveal the history of ancient megadroughts across our planet.

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    Expecting the unexpected: The relevance of old floods to modern hydrology

    Because large floods are rare and river gage records are short, the conventional approach to flood-frequency analysis can sometimes drastically underestimate the threat posed to communities and infrastructure by extreme floods. In this lecture, I’ll argue that paleoflood hydrology is absolutely essential to judge the real risk of large, rare floods.

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    What to expect when you’re expecting decadal variability in hydroclimatic proxies

    if simulated drought patterns generated by a simple statistical emulator are able to match the frequency, intensity, or spatial extent of droughts reconstructed by proxies, that implies that exotic forcings are not required to produce widespread megadroughts in the western United States.

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    Making climate data sing

    Music is inherently narrative and is known to exert a powerful influence on human emotions. Here we report on a collaboration between scientists and artists at the University of Minnesota that uses data sonification with added musical elements to transmit the evidence of climate change in an engaging and visceral way.

  • Courses

    At the undergraduate level, I teach advanced classes in dendrochronology (which uses annual growth rings in trees to understand how our environment has behaved in the past) and Holocene paleoclimatology (focused on the evolution of Earth’s climate since the end of the last ice age), as well as an introductory course in biogeography.


    I also offer graduate courses in paleoclimatology, climatology, and science communication, and supervises graduate students conducting research on water resources, decade-to-centennial scale climate variability, and hemispheric-scale dendroclimatology.


    Biogeography of the Global Garden




    Introduction to Dendrochronology


    syllabus | we​bsite


    Global Freshwater in the 21st Century


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    Climate Variations


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    The Art of Scientific Presentations


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    The Impact of Decadal Climate Variability on Terrestrial Ecosystems




    Frontiers in Paleoclimatology


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    Hydroclimatic extremes


    syllabus | website

  • Media projects

    When science is communicated to the broader public, many of its key findings are shared in the form of dense prose, conceptual diagrams or information-dense data graphics. Although those tools can be effective, they do not always offer the best way to reach every audience.

    Planetary Bands, Warming World is a composition for string quartet that uses music to create a novel, visceral, and memorable encounter with weather data collected across our planet. In this sonification of NASA’s GISSTEMP data, each instrument in the string quartet represents the average annual zonal temperature within a specific latitude band, including the equatorial zone (cello), the midlatitudes (viola), the high latitudes (second violin), and the Arctic (first violin). As the song progresses, the infographic above each musician displays the average annual temperature for their corresponding region.

    With support from the University of Minnesota’s School of Music and its Institute on the Environment, in 2012 I began a collaborative project using music to communicate critical concepts in climate science. The first product from this collaboration was a piece written by an undergraduate student in Geography that expressed NASA’s global temperature record as a musical composition for the cello. The result, which was titled ‘A Song of Our Warming Planet’, transformed 133 years of annual global temperature anomalies into a haunting, atonal melody that stretched across almost all of the instrument’s range. Since its release in June 2013, ‘A Song of Our Warming Planet’ has been featured by several national and international media outlets, including the New York Times, the Weather Channel, and National Public Radio, and its accompanying video has received more than 140,000 views from nearly every corner of the world. Because the composition was released under a Creative Commons license, it has been performed (and in some cases, reinterpreted) by local and international artists, including musicians from Wisconsin, California, New York, Canada, and the Netherlands.

    Giving a talk can open doors to new collaborations, increase your chances of funding success and make it more likely that other people will respond to your ideas. But if we're honest with ourselves, scientific presentations are too often confusing, boring and overstuffed. Here are some suggestions, based on my experience as a speaker, audience member, and presentation trainer, that I hope will make your next conference talk or seminar more enjoyable, engaging and effective.

    The ability to deliver effective and engaging oral presentations is a critical skill for scholars in all disciplines. Unfortunately, despite the importance of clear communication, professional presentations about research are too often confusing, abstract and boring. In this video, I outline five small changes you can make to become a more effective communicator.

  • Contact information

    Twitter is fastest, email is most precise, and phone not possible.

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