This story highlights a current research project at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. To read more about research projects at HBEF, visit Current Research page. Check back regularly to learn about new research projects.
An Ice Storm Manipulation Experiment in a Northern Hardwood Forest


  Contact Info:
  Lindsey Rustad
John Campbell
USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station
271 Mast Road, Durham, NH 03824
Charley Driscoll, Syracuse University
Paul Schaberg, US Forest Service
Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University
Sarah Garlick, Hubbard Brook Research Foundation
Peter Groffman, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Timothy Fahey, Cornell University
Robert Sanford, University of Southern Maine

ICE 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 0.25 in. 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, NH, 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.

  1998 Ice Storm

This new study follows the first-ever controlled, experimental ice storm manipulation in a forest ecosystem, conducted at Hubbard Brook during 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 in. of ice accumulation, which is comparable to measurements at Hubbard Brook during the major ice storm of 1998 that affected much of the northeastern US 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 in 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.

  1998 Ice Storm

Follow the ice storm on Twitter @HubbardBrookNH and #HBicestorm

Date Prepared: Jan 2016