Sunday Story: Why the leaves change colors

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We’ll see decreasing clouds today. Thankfully, many of us got a bit of rain last night. I have 0.1 at my house (hey, it’s better than nothing). The rest of our Sunday should be quite nice.

I’ll have to keep an eye on storms Monday evening. They could pack a punch. Right now it looks like they’ll arrive sometime between 5:00-10:00 p.m. This is a squall line, so straight-line winds will be the main threat. I’ll update timing as that becomes possible.

Those storms will erupt across the southern plains today, with all modes of severe weather possible for them. That line should weaken as it moves eastward into TN. Hopefully, this means it will have lost all of its punch by the time it reaches the plateau. We’ll just have to watch that and see, though.

Then, the rest of the week is looking good until Friday. That’s when our next front arrives with more showers.

And now, for your Sunday Story!

Why do leaves change colors?

The drought has taken a toll on the leaves of many of our trees across the plateau. Many of the leaves have just dried up. Still, you can always count on some color for our autumn season. 

 While weather plays a part in fall foliage colors, the primary factor in bringing about those colors is the diminishing daylight. The shorter days impact the chemicals inside the leaves. These chemicals determine the color of the leaf. 

 One of those chemicals is chlorophyll. This substance is what gives leaves their green color. Leaves also contain two other substances called carotenoids and anthocyanins that cannot be seen as long as chlorophyll is present and dominating. 

Carotenoids are yellow and produce a yellow coloring within the plants they are dominant in, such as with Daffodil blooms. Anthocyanins produce red colors and are dominant in things like cherries, which gives them their red color. Every tree has different levels of each substance.

 As daylight decreases, chlorophyll breaks down. This allows the carotenoids and anthocyanins to shine through.

 The weather still has an impact, as temperature and moisture determine how the chlorophyll breaks down. Ideal fall color conditions consist of a warm, wet spring that creates lush, healthy leaves. This would be followed by a summer free of drought that keeps those leaves healthy. Finally, warm afternoons and cool nights in the fall would break down that chlorophyll and produce brilliant colors. The closer to these conditions we get, the more beautiful the fall foliage will be.  

Even with drought conditions, we should still see some areas of pretty colors on the plateau this season. In time, those falling leaves will be replaced by falling flakes of snow. 

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