The science behind this year’s fall foliage in the Four States


CARTHAGE, Mo.–Have you noticed this year’s fall colors aren’t as vibrant as last year’s?

It’s because of a fluctuation in temperatures and rainfall in Southwest Missouri this year.

You get the brightest fall colors when an equal amount of rain falls in summer and fall. But, you also need a steady lowering in temperatures through the fall season.

In 2019, Southwest Missouri had above normal temperatures at the end of summer and at the start of fall. Also, a record amount of rain fell in spring and summer, and was then followed by a dry period.

These variations disturb the leaf changing process, which is why oak trees have turned green to brown.

“As the days shorten, the leaves go through a transitional phase called ‘abscission,’ where they make a layer between the leaf and the tree,” explained Southwest Research Center horticulture specialist Robert Balek. “The sugars in the leaf no longer get transported into the tree and that’s where the pigments come from.”

Peak foliage in the Four States occurs around the end of October, so now is the last chance to see fall colors before they fall.

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