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Impacts of drought conditions on fall color

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 11:14 AM EDT
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As the days become shorter and cooler we’re starting to see more fall color. Sunny/mild days with long cool nights are best for fall colors. However, this year will be a little different because of ongoing drought conditions.

The fall 2021 color season is shaping up to peak a little earlier this year. Across the U.P. through the northern lower leaves will peak the last week of the month. The central Lower will be October 4th-8th. The southern lower will peak from the 13th through the 20th of October.

We’ve seen some patches of fall color as early as July, but it’s not because of the change in season. It’s due to trees being under stress from a lack of moisture. The U.P. ended up with a rainfall deficit this past summer. It resulted in drought conditions during the summer, which started early in the season.

The most recent drought monitor has many northern counties under moderate drought conditions. The lack of rain does affect fall colors. The two impacts are an earlier change in color and duller colors.

Trees, which have been under stress during a prolonged period of time will have more dull colors when leaves turn. Plus, there will be more yellows as compared to the vibrant reds and oranges. For vibrant-rich fall colors, ideally, near-normal rainfall amounts evenly distributed throughout the summer months are necessary.

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