The Science Behind Fall


It’s that time of year again where we look toward the trees, mountains, and valleys for the leaves of change. The time of year when the Mountain State turns into a painting with hues of purple, red, orange, yellow, and green dashing the tips of the trees. This year though is a different story thanks to some late summer heat and an initial wet start to fall. 

Over the last two weeks we have started to see a little change in color as we roll toward the end of October into the beginning of November. There are a few reasons to why this change is occurring and it all has to do with good old science.

One reason for the change is photosynthesis. Yes that is a big word from way back, like when we were just getting into 7th and 8th grade Biology class. So what does it mean you ask? Well, its simply the process in knowing why and when the leaves will change.

The process of photosynthesis is when the leaf acquires its energy to produce color from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. In turn the leaves release sugars and oxygen to promote the change in color, which is known as cholorophyll.

Chlorophyll is the chemical compound associated with green leaf color. When you get less sunlight and drier days you get less energy produced by photosynthesis to promote green leaves. When you get more sunlight in the summer months and more rain you get lush green color.  When the trees stop producing chlorophyll, then you see the “true colors” of the leaves

Right now our weather pattern continues to produce dry and cool conditions which is speeding up our color changes. Most locations from the Canaan Valley up into the Greenbrier Valley are seeing spotty changes along with central West Virginia into the northern Panhandle. Elsewhere around the region bright colors is hit or miss with most locations still seeing a good bit of green.

Our forecast is showing warmer conditions which could set back the brilliant colors a little more over the next few days.   For now leaf peepers rejoice, and enjoy the color that is out there since this has been a long drawn-out season or dry, warm conditions. Cross your fingers for cooler weather which looks to arrive in the next week to really speed up the arrival of the more vibrant colors!

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