Quantifying and assessing ice storm damage to trees

This  project works to determine how best to prune trees to improve resilience to damage from ice storms.

Quantifying and assessing ice storm damage to trees
Ice accumulation on a Norway maple branch. Branches can hold several times their own weight in ice before they break.


Ice storms are a fairly common occurrence throughout much of the eastern United States. These storms cause significant damage to trees in natural and urban settings. Understanding ice build-up patterns on branches will help us to better recognize branching traits and patterns that predispose trees to risk of failure during ice storms. An improved ability to recognize these characteristics will help improve the scientific basis for pruning recommendations for branches at an increased risk of failure in areas that are prone to ice storms. This project seeks to answer some of these fundamental questions by subjecting tree branches to simulated freezing rain in situ, quantifying ice accretion and branch response (up to and including breakage) to increased loads. 

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