Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Winds and Trees in Princeton

Today at noon, the author of "Wind Wizard", a book about how wind navigates the natural and built landscape, will give a talk at the Princeton Public Library. I'm hoping to gain some insight on whether the curved, airfoil shape of Jadwin Gym's roof, combined with the direction and speed of Hurricane Sandy's winds, could have led to the devastation of old but very healthy trees in the hidden valley between the gym and Washington Road.
Specifically, this spot in the roof is directly "upwind" of a long progression of trees that fell.
You can see the root balls and also the big gap in the canopy that wasn't there before.
This tree, with its upended root ball spreading 30 feet across and 15 feet high, appears to have been of the vintage of others with documented ages approaching 200 years. These sorts of linear blowdowns have happened elsewhere without any buildings nearby, but it's interesting to speculate on the impacts downwind if a building shaped like an airplane wing catches hurricane winds just right.

By coincidence, a sustainability display at the university's Frist Center describes the importance of urban microclimates created by buildings, whose impact can be highly localized,
or community-wide. Perhaps there's something to be learned from the valley just a few hundred feet downstream of the display.

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