Unveiling Falling Urban Trees before and during Typhoon Higos (2020): Empirical Case Study of Potential Structural Failure Using Tilt Sensor

Karena Ka Wai Hui, Man Sing Wong (Corresponding Author), Coco Yin Tung Kwok, Hon Li, Sawaid Abbas, Janet E. Nichol

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Urban trees in a densely populated environment may pose risks to the public’s safety in terms of the potential danger of injuries and fatalities, loss of property, impacts on traffic, etc. The biological and mechanical features of urban trees may change over time, thereby affecting the stability of the tree structure. This can be a gradual process but can also be drastic, especially after typhoons or heavy rainstorms. Trees may fall at any time with no discernible signs of failure being exhibited or detected. It is always a challenge in urban tree management to develop a preventive alert system to detect the potential failure of hazardous urban trees and hence be able to have an action plan to handle potential tree tilting or tree collapse. Few studies have considered the comparison of tree morphology to the tilt response relative to uprooting failure in urban cities. New methods involving numerical modeling and sensing technologies provide tools for an effective and deeper understanding of the interaction of root-plate movement and windstorm with the application of the tailor-made sensor. In this study, root-plate tilt variations of 889 trees with sensors installed during Typhoon Higos (2020) are investigated, especially the tilting pattern of the two trees that failed in the event. The correlation of tree response during the typhoon among all trees with tilt measurements was also evaluated. The results from two alarm levels developed in the study, i.e., Increasing Trend Alarm and Sudden Increase Alarm indicated that significant root-plate movement to wind response is species-dependent. These systems could help inform decision making to identify the problematic trees in the early stage. Through the use of smart sensors, the data collected by the alert system provides a very useful analysis of the stability of tree structure and tree health in urban tree management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number359
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Arboriculture
  • Risk mitigation
  • Smart sensing technology
  • Tree failure
  • Tree risk management
  • Tree stability
  • Urban forestry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry


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