Sustaining Forests


Pilot Study

The Ice Storm Experiment has its roots in what appears to be the first-ever controlled, experimental ice storm manipulation in a forest ecosystem in February 2011. Water was pumped out of Hubbard Brook and sprayed over the forest canopy during subfreezing conditions to simulate a glaze ice event. The falling water froze on contact, resulting in 0.4 inch of ice accumulation, which is comparable to measurements at Hubbard Brook during the major ice storm of 1998 that affected much of the northeastern United States and Canada. This initial experiment provided proof of concept that a controlled ice storm experiment could be done, and evaluated forest damage and effects on carbon sequestration.

Read more:

Rustad, Lindsey E.; Campbell, John L. 2012. A novel ice storm manipulation experiment in a northern hardwood forest. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 42: 1810-1818.

Featured Resource

Ice Storm Experiment

Research Issue

[photo:] Damage from simulated ice stormIce storms are an important natural disturbance in forest ecosystems of the “ice belt” that covers a broad area extending from east Texas to New England. These glazing events (defined as one-quarter inch of ice accretion or more) are often perceived as rare occurrences, even though the return interval is as short as 2-5 years in the most ice storm prone northeastern U.S. In this region, ice storms are a major cause of forest disturbance. 

Despite their influential role in shaping forest ecosystems and the services they provide, knowledge of ice storms and their impacts remains relatively limited, largely because these storms remain hard to predict and scientists don’t know when or where they will next occur.  A new study at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, part of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, is using a suite of tools, including creating artificial ice storms, to study the impacts of these storms on northern hardwood forests.  This research will provide the scientific community, land managers and the concerned public greater insight on the impacts of these powerful, frightening, and curiously aesthetic extreme winter weather events on ecosystem dynamics in northern hardwood forests.

Our Research

[photo:] Researcher simulating ice storm using fire hose to spray trees.The Hubbard Brook “Ice Storm Experiment” is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DEB-1457675 - Collaborative Research: Understanding the Impacts of Ice Storms on Forest Ecosystems of the Northeastern United States).  The Ice Storm Experiment is an integrated program of research built on an impressive foundation of previous work  at the site and by the research team, including:

bulleted itemA pilot ice storm experiment conducted at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in 2012;

bulleted itema significant body of research on the response of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest and surrounding regional forests to the severe "Ice Storm of 1998";

bulleted itema new set of historical climate reconstructions that allow for the quantification of meteorological conditions consistent with ice storms.

National Science Foundation Video on Ice Storm Experiment

Expected Outcomes

This research will provide the scientific community, land managers and the public with greater insight on the impacts of these powerful, frightening, and curiously aesthetic extreme winter weather events on ecosystem dynamics in northern hardwood forests.

Specifically, the research is expected to result in:

  • Development of high-resolution global climate model simulations to evaluate future severity, frequency and extent of ice storms;
  • Evaluation of short-term (2-3 year) ecosystem response to four different intensities and two frequencies of experimental ice events;
  • Evaluation of longer-term (18-plus years) responses of forest vegetation to the 1998 storm;
  • Improvement of an established forest ecosystem biogeochemical model based on results from the experiment and the long term observations
  • Ability to project future ice storm impacts on ecosystem fluxes and pools of carbon and nitrogen in a northern hardwood forest.

In addition, the Ice Storm Experiment will be integrated with broader impacts involving a program to use sensor technology to engage STEM students with disabilities in the study; a dialog of the impacts of ice storms with local stakeholders; the production of a video on the making of an ice storm and relevance to extreme events and climate change, and undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

Research Partners

 

Last Modified: March 23, 2016