How Woods Are Affected by Different Climates

How Woods Are Affected by Different Climates

December 18, 2023  |  Climate Factors, Wood Facts, Wood Species
A misty forest. The text reads, "How Woods Are Affected" by Different Climates

Understanding how climatic factors affect the properties of wood is crucial for understanding how wood will behave based on the regional environment in which it was grown.  

Researchers have been studying the relationship between climate and wood properties, including wood density, mechanical strength, and shrinkage rates, among others, to gain insights into how forests are responding to changing climatic conditions.  

You need to know how wood will change from region to region. This blog has you covered. We will explore different varieties of wood and how they are affected by climate. We will focus on four of our most popular wood types, oak, poplar, birch, and maple. All these species are harvested from late fall to mid-winter.   


Oak Wood and Climate Factors 


Climate factors, such as precipitation and temperature, have a significant impact on the physical properties of oak wood. These conditions influence various wood characteristics, including density, mechanical properties, and shrinkage. 

Wood density is a key property affected by climate factors. Warmer temperatures in North America can lead to an increase in average temperatures, which in turn can affect oak wood density. Oak trees growing in higher, less fertile conditions produce a higher density than those growing low in more fertile soil.   

Mechanical properties, such as impact bending strength, are also influenced by climate factors. Primarily after harvesting, oak wood grown in areas with drier conditions may have reduced mechanical strength due to slower forest regrowth and the stress caused by water availability. Similarly, changes in precipitation patterns can impact the latewood density and all-dry density of oak wood. 

Shrinkage properties, including tangential shrinkage rate, radial shrinkage rate, and volume shrinkage rate, are affected by climate factors as well. Higher levels of precipitation can result in higher shrinkage rates, while drier conditions can lead to lower shrinkage rates.  It also results in having a better density as well.  

There is a clear correlation between specific months and seasons and the physical properties of oak wood. For example, during months with high precipitation, oak wood density tends to decrease.  

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Poplar Wood and Climate Factors 


Poplar wood, a highly versatile and widely used material, is influenced by climate conditions. 

Rainfall and temperature play a crucial role in shaping its physical properties, including density, mechanical properties, and shrinkage characteristics. 

The density of poplar wood is affected by precipitation levels. In regions with abundant rainfall, the wood density tends to be higher. Conversely, areas experiencing drier conditions result in lower wood density. Temperature also influences wood density, with warmer climates typically favoring higher densities. 

Mechanical properties such as impact bending strength, tangential shrinkage rate, radial shrinkage rate, and volume shrinkage rate are all affected by climate variables. Harvesting in warmer temperatures tends to increase the impact bending strength of poplar wood. Additionally, temperature fluctuations throughout the seasons influence the shrinkage rates, with higher rates observed during the drier seasons. 

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Birch Wood and Climate Factors 


One way to study the impact of birch wood is through artificial weathering cycles. These cycles involve subjecting the wood to various environmental conditions, including changes in temperature, humidity, and UV radiation. Researchers have observed that these cycles can cause significant changes in the mechanical properties of wood. 

For example, the modulus of elasticity (MOE) and modulus of rupture (MOR) of birch wood can decrease during artificial weathering cycles. This means that the wood becomes less stiff and less resistant to bending or breaking.  

Moisture content and the deposition of salt can further influence the mechanical properties of birch wood. Higher moisture content can lead to a decrease in strength, as it weakens the bonding between wood fibers. Additionally, salt deposition can cause corrosion and degradation of the wood, further reducing its durability. 

Understanding how climate factors impact birch wood is crucial for industries that rely on this wood for various applications. By considering the mechanical properties of birch wood under different climatic conditions, manufacturers can develop strategies to enhance its performance and ensure its longevity. 

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Maple Wood and Climate Factors 


Maple wood is highly influenced by primarily precipitation and temperature, which have significant impacts on its density and mechanical properties.

Precipitation plays a crucial role in determining the wood density of maple trees. Research has shown a positive correlation between precipitation levels and wood density. Meaning, in regions with higher levels of precipitation, maple wood tends to have higher wood density. This is because increased precipitation allows for better moisture availability and, in turn, promotes more robust cellular structures, resulting in denser wood. 

Temperature, on the other hand, affects the mechanical properties of maple wood. Warmer temperatures have been found to decrease wood density and increase the impact bending strength of maple. This suggests that as average temperatures rise, the mechanical properties of maple wood may be altered.

Shop maple dowels here! 

Maple wood is a favorite for furniture builders everywhere. Check out this guide on the importance of quality wood in furniture making! 


Wood Dowels and Components from Atlas Dowel 


Understanding how climate impacts your wood not only is important for where your wood is grown, but it also is important for the environment in which it is stored or used.  

Today, we covered four of our most popular wood species, oak, poplar, birch, and maple, and discussed how each is affected by climate.  

Now that you have a better understanding of what climate does to species of wood, you can make more informed decisions about your next dowel purchase. 

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