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Wind tunnel measurements of crown streamlining and drag relationships for three conifer species

Rudnicki, M., Mitchell, S.J., Novak, M.D.
Canadian journal of forest research 2004 v.34 no.3 pp. 666-676
Thuja plicata, Tsuga heterophylla, Pinus contorta, forest trees, wind tunnels, tree crown, drag, wind, wind speed, area, pruning, plant architecture, windthrow
Estimating the wind force or drag acting on tree crowns is central to understanding both the chronic effects of wind and the calculation of critical wind speed in windthrow prediction models. The classical drag equation is problematic for porous, flexible tree crowns whose frontal area declines as wind speeds increase and branches streamline. Juvenile crowns of three morphologically different conifers, western redcedar (Thuja plicata Donn ex D. Don), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.), and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl. ex Loud.), were exposed to wind speeds from 4 to 20 m/s in a wind tunnel. At 20 m/s, streamlining reduced the frontal area by 54% for redcedar, 39% for hemlock, and 36% for lodgepole pine. Crown drag coefficients calculated using frontal area in still air varied with wind speed. At 20 m/s, they were 0.22, 0.47, and 0.47 for these species, respectively. Drag was proportional to the product of mass and wind speed and also to the product of wind speed squared and wind speed specific frontal area. Lodgepole pine and redcedar had lower drag per unit of branch mass than did hemlock. Removing branches by pruning had little effect on drag per unit branch mass.