Ever wondered why leaves change color in autumn?

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Meteorologist Chris Sowers explains the why leaves change color. (WPVI)

One of the things that I like the most about living in this part of the country is that we get to experience all four seasons, but for me there's no season quite like autumn!

Sugar maples as orange as the sun, ruby red October maples, and ginkgos as yellow as a school bus!

The various shades of red, orange, yellow and magenta can create a kaleidoscope of color, and some of the most brilliant countryside landscapes you've ever seen.


But have you ever wondered why leaves change color in the fall?

Plants make their own food using sunlight and chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their green color. But as the nights get longer during the early fall, the chlorophyll begins to disappear from the leaves.

This allows the other color pigments (which were there all along, they were just covered up by the green pigment of the chlorophyll) to become visible. It's at this stage in the game where everything from temperature to sunlight to soil moisture will determine how spectacular or dull of a show you're going to get.



For example, abundant sunlight and low temperatures will frequently allow your peak color to last a little longer than normal - but you don't want it too cold.

An early frost will end the ability of a leaf to manufacture its color pigments and put a quick end to the show.

You really don't want a lot of heavy wind and rain either, as this can cause the leaves to fall before they fully develop color.

A summer drought that lingers in to the fall will create the worst viewing conditions of all. Abnormally long dry spells will cause the leaves to drop before they even begin changing colors.

So what's the best weather for fall foliage you ask? It's a summer filled with ample moisture followed by a dry, cool and sunny autumn with warm days and cool - but frostless - nights.

Have photos of the fall leaves where you live? Share them with us using the hashtag #6abcAction, post to our Action News Facebook page, or email us at JoinTheAction@6abc.com.


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