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The Autumn Leaves – Colorful or Not?

Posted on Monday, September 12, 2022
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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Autumn is a fabulous time of year for leaf peeping, an activity in which folks travel to view and photograph the fall foliage in areas where leaves change color. The northern New England area, as well as Appalachia and the upper Midwest, are generally desirable places to go to within the U.S. to observe color changes. State and National Parks in those areas offer a rich abundance of forests and woodlands capable of displaying an array of breathtaking autumn colors. However, have you ever wondered why some years are better than others? And what will 2022 be like?

Per the USDA Forest Service, there are three main factors that influence autumn leaf colors. They include:

  • Leaf pigments –Anthocyanins are pigments in leaves and fruit and give them color such as red, purple, and crimson. Carotenoids produce yellow, orange, and brown colors. Chlorophyll is the compound that gives leaves their green colors and helps plants by converting sunlight into “food” through photosynthesis. Due to biochemical reactions, each plays a role in creating autumnal colors.
  • Length of night – As the days grow shorter, chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down to reveal the leaves natural colors, unmasking the anthocyanin and carotenoids that are present within them.
  • Weather – Brilliance of colors is influenced by temperature and moisture. Not only can a late spring or severe summer drought postpone the onset of fall colors, but a warm fall can also lower the intensity of color. However, a wet spring followed by a pleasant summer and warm fall days with cool nights can increase the brilliance of fall colors.

Per Afar.com, the above average temperature expected this fall for most of the West and northern tier of the continental U.S., along with drought conditions in many parts of the nation, will cause the foliage season to be delayed and less vibrant in 2022 in some places. However, meteorologists are quick to point out that Mother Nature can still bring storms our way and that parts of New England and the mid-Atlantic region may do well due to recent storms, providing some hope for leaf peepers after all.

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