Over vast areas of the world's landmasses, where climate beats out a strong seasonal rhythm, tree growth keeps unerring time. In their rings, trees record many climate melodies, played in different places and different eras. Recent years have seen a consolidation and expansion of tree-ring sample collections across the traditional research areas of North America and Europe, and the start of major developments in many new areas of Eurasia, South America and Australasia. From such collections are produced networks of precisely dated chronologies; records of various aspects of tree growth, registered continuously, year by year across many centuries. Their sensitivities to different climate parameters are now translated into ever more detailed histories of temperature and moisture variability across expanding dimensions of time and space. With their extensive coverage, high temporal resolution and rigid dating control, dendroclimatic reconstructions contribute significantly to our knowledge of late Holocene climates, most importantly on timescales ranging from 1 to 100 years. In special areas of the world, where trees live for thousands of years or where subfossil remnants of long dead specimens are preserved, work building chronologies covering many millennia continues apace. Very recently, trees have provided important new information about major modes of general circulation dynamics linked to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation, and about the effect of large volcanic eruptions. As for assessing the significance of 20th century global warming, the evidence from dendroclimatology in general, supports the notion that the last 100 years have been unusually warm, at least within a context of the last two millennia. However, this evidence should not be considered equivocal. The activities of humans may well be impacting on the `natural' growth of trees in different ways, making the task of isolating a clear climate message subtly difficult.