For many, fall is the best time of year with warm days and fall nights, plenty of excuses to break out the comfy sweaters, and beautiful fall foliage. With the cooler than normal temperatures this week, fall fans are celebrating in full force.
In the eyes of nature, this early cold front may bring about some seasonal changes a few weeks earlier than normal this year. Perhaps the most noticeable change will be the foliage color changes and falling leaves.
Each fall, trees get the signal to begin closing up shop for the year when the days start getting shorter and the temperatures slowly cool off. In the last couple weeks, you may have noticed the first of the leaves naturally turning yellow and dropping from the trees in recent rains.
These early turning trees have already received the signal from mother nature to stop producing chlorophyll, the compound that maintains the healthy green color in the leaves. Once the tree stops the production of chlorophyll, it slowly begins to break down resulting in the yellows and reds we see each fall.
As the chlorophyll breaks down in the leaves, the tree begins producing a small cell at the base of leaves which eventually grows to cover the entire leaf steam. This small cell acts like a pair of scissors and separates the leaf from the tree branch.
In years like this where we see sudden drastic declines in the temperatures, it can prevent the tree from producing the wonderful fall colors that we sometimes see. This is because these drastic temperature fluctuations can cause the leaves to die off quickly before the little cell has time to form. Without the development of that little scissor-like cell, watch for tree leaves to turn brown and hang on the trees all winter until the tree is able to push the leaves off in the spring when they begin to bud out.
So what effect will this recent cold snap have on our local tree foliage? Only time will tell. We will just have to wait and see if the sudden cold weather was enough to send the leaves into quiet dormancy or if the warmer weather forecast for this weekend will allow the trees time to form the cells necessary for those beautiful fall colors.
For the sake of the fall color watchers and the leaf rakers that like to have their leaves all neatly raked before the snow flies, lets hope that the trees are able to withstand the cold snap and progress into their beautiful fall colors.
On the bright side, early cold weather that remains above freezing tends to produce more brilliant red colors in maple trees and rainy, overcast weather is known to encourage brighter fall colors all around so this could be a pretty fall.