Peak fall foliage likely to look different in 2023 due to continued drought

[UGCHAR-CJ]Fall color.
Clint Hayden

With Labor Day marking the symbolic end of summer and fall activities on the horizon, trips to go see peak fall foliage in the coming months is a hallmark of the season for many Americans.

The season could look much different this year however, due to persistent drought conditions that have affected the Midwest for much of 2023.

While some may think of warmer Septembers as a reason behind the change in leaves, the primary factor behind the changing colors are the shortening days and the reduced daylight that comes with them.

According to NBC 5 Storm Team meteorologist Pete Sack, the green-pigmented chlorophyll in leaves that is activated by sunlight and photosynthesis both slow down, a process that brings out the leaves' natural colors.

Those are the red, yellow, orange and brown colors seen in leaves before they are shed from trees during the fall season.

While those colors will still be prevalent this fall, "peak fall foliage" may be shortened due to year-long drought conditions, as drier leaves fall from trees faster than those with some moisture content.

Although the length depends on the region, peak fall foliage typically lasts between two and four weeks. That time may be cut in half this year, however, due to dry conditions.

According to Sack, even above-average rainfall at this point in the year would not restore the typical length of peak fall foliage.

For those that are planning a trip to see fall colors, moving up the timeline of the trip could be your best bet at seeing the best natural beauty of the season.

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