200-year-old tree explodes due to seven-day-long 35C heatwave

Heatwave conditions are believed to have caused a 200-year-old tree to explode.

A huge branch from the exploded oak tree in Portland, Oregon, USA, took down powerlines in the Eastmoreland neighbourhood during a week-long heatwave.

Seven days of temperatures in excess of 35C are understood to have caused the falling of the branch, which is estimated to have weighed around 13,600kg (2,140st).

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Nobody was hurt and the reported damage to property was also minimal, but the reason for the unusual occurrence has been attributed to the longest heatwave on record in the Portland region.

It appears that such extreme weather conditions are not only harmful to vulnerable people but also to some of the world's oldest and most resilient trees.

Michael Jolliff – an arborist – told local television station FOX 12 how it is possible for a tree to explode because of a period of intense heat.

He said: "That (heat) tends to cause thermal changes inside the tree in the wood tissues and also the build-up of gases inside the tree. That can be explosive and sudden."

Jolliff added that the explosions are more likely to happen to older, heavier trees and especially oaks, explaining: "We have seen it in a sense explode because, under that amount of weight, you hear it. It’s very dynamic."

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Nearby Powell Park also saw another huge branch from a tree fall to the ground last week and while Jolliff believes rot played a part in that incident, he also feels that heat and weight could have been contributing factors too.

And due to climate change Jolliff reckons tree explosions could become more frequent.

"We’re going to continue to see it because of the way the heat is trending," he said. "There isn’t any real precursor or warnings and that’s the problem. No tree is perfectly safe."

The Eastmoreland oak tree had survived countless ice storms over the past two centuries but the heatwave claimed it as a victim and its remains will now need to be completely removed.


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