Trees and Weather
Weather effects our trees in many ways. Some good, some not so good. Consider the types of weather conditions a tree must endure. Wind, rain, flood, frost, snow, sleet, hail, ice, freezing temperatures, heat, sun, lightning, and drought, to name a few. Not only does the weather effect trees directly, but also indirectly by effecting factors such as invasive insects, populations and types of browsing animals and even human behaviors such as logging practices and opportunities.
Freeze and thaw temperature swings in February and March bring us maple syrup, but also have the ability to crack or even split a tree’s trunk, especially forked trees. Too much exposure to winter conditions can damage or kill a tree, especially if the roots are not insulated by a layer of snow. Exposure to winter cold, or lack thereof, can have an effect on populations of invasive insects such as gypsy and brown-tail moths. Heavy ice and snow can change the anatomy of a tree, or even bring it to earth completely. While trees need rain to survive, too much rain softens the soil and weakens a trees grip on the earth. Add some high wind and you get uprooted trees. High wind also helps identify the forked trees that were cracked or split during freeze and thaw cycles, by tearing off one or both tops. Exposure to sunlight, or lack thereof will have a major impact on the growth-rate and shape of a tree. Lightning has a tendency to seek out the tallest trees in the forest (or neighborhood) and blow them to bits. The hole created in the canopy changes the growth rate and behavior of the surrounding trees for years to come. Long dry stretches during the summer will stress trees and test their vitality. A few will wither and die while most show incredible abilities to live without water.
Changing climate conditions can change the north-south boundaries of certain species of trees. Take birch trees for example. Birch are a northern species that thrives in the cold. When temperatures warm up, long-term, southern birches die off and their southern boundary moves north. Just the opposite is true of sycamores and tulip poplars. Yes, trees do migrate.
Until we learn how to control the weather, the best we can do is pay attention to our trees, and remove the split, weakened and vulnerable trees or limbs before they fall on us or our stuff. An annual or semi-annual property inspection, by an experienced eye, is a good idea. Better to take control of your trees, and thus the weather, than have it take control of you.