A Forest is Being Frozen – Artificially!
It’s time you became aware of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest amidst the White Mountains of New Hampshire. While it may not look that different from neighboring landscapes, this patch of woods has been home to some of the past half-century’s biggest discoveries in forest science.
And now, a team of scientists are generating an experimental ice storm on research plots in the Forest - to better understand the short- and long-term effects of ice storms on forests.
As the effects of climate change take hold, extreme weather events will become more common. Our hottest days will turn hotter as will the coldest days get even more colder. Storms will be become more intense. This latest study is to take a look at the effects that extreme weather events will have on ecosystems and our lives.
Credit: Patrick Hamilton
A section of the forest has been divvied up into 10 roughly basketball-court-sized plots. These get doused with a quarter, half, or three-quarters of an inch of ice, which allows the scientists to test different scales of storm sizes. With equipment that looks not unlike a combination of a firetruck and a snowmobile, water from a nearby brook is hosed and blasted 100 feet into the air, where it turns into a fine freezing mist. The overall effect is like putting the forest in a big wet ice-box.
Image from National Science Foundation/YouTube.
They have already carried out two rounds of freezing in 2016 and are set for another two in the coming year. The scientists will then proceed to look at a ton of variables — the number of branches snapped off by ice, whether all that dead wood makes wildfires more likely in other parts of the year? The effect on wild-life, birds and insects?
The National Science Foundation released the following video documenting the chilly experiment.
Why here, you wonder? The answer lies in the site’s geography. Nearly 8,000 acres of red spruce, hemlock, sugar maple and other trees in a bowl-shaped valley, which also sports a relatively watertight riverbed, so that water flow can be measured accurately.
The research station has been operating since 1955, when the US Forest Service selected the site. In the decades since, the studies at Hubbard Brook have led scientists to important discoveries about the health of the entire forest ecosystem. These include climate change patterns, acidic rain and even the effect on animal populations.