Thursday, October 22, 2015

Autumn Colors

Photo Credit: Kenneth May
Varying online sites will tell you that someone somewhere prefers this season over that when polled. While each season holds a dear place in every meteorologists' heart, out of the four distinct seasons of the year, autumn is my unequivocal favorite.

Even those who aren't a fan of the dwindling summer warmth and looming winter weather would say that the fall foliage is one of the best parts of the season.

While it's not an exact science, predicting the fall colors can be approached from a scientific angle. 

Bright green leaves seen on the trees in summer-time project that classic color from the tree's concentration of chlorophyll. According to ODNR Forester Casey Burdick, chlorophyll helps to produce sugars that feed the trees.

Photo Credit: Kelly Smith Dicks
Into the fall season, as days get shorter and cooler, chlorophyll breaks down and excess sugars get trapped in the leaves. As the feeding process slows, the green color fades.

Once the chlorophyll fades, the orange fall-like hues start to show. Additionally, bright reds and purple colors are actively produced within the leaves during the bright, sunny late-summer months. These Anthocyanins pop a bright display of color as tree draws its nutrients and vital chemicals in to the stems and roots to continue to sustain the plant through winter.

Since this year has been rather mild, the leaves have been able to develop some vibrant fall colors without interruption. On years when the first frost occurs early in the season, the colorful foliage may be stopped dead in its tracks, since freezing conditions can destroy the mechanism within the tree that is responsible for creating anthocyanins.

Drought may also put a strain on the process by causing a build up of excess sugar which may result in the leaves dropping before they've developed full fall color.

Ideal conditions would be characterized by a wet growing season followed by a dry, cool and sunny autumn.

Average Fall Foliage Peak Times

 In mid-October, Northwest Ohio and parts of SE Michigan should be at or near their peak fall-foliage season. According to Marek D. Rzonca of The Foliage Network, we're currently experiencing 'moderate to high color'.

For a slideshow of more fall foliage photos from NW Ohio and SE Michigan, follow the link to WTOL 11: