Altoona, Pa. (WTAJ) — You may have noticed the leaves are slowly starting to change across the area! The fall equinox, commonly known as the first day of fall will happen on Thursday, Sept. 22 at around 9:03 p.m.
The sun has already started to weaken, and even though we haven’t seen much yet, the process of the autumn show has started. As we head further into fall, we will see more and more vibrant colors across Pennsylvania.
Typically here in Central Pennsylvania, we will see peak fall foliage in mid-October. This year, the forecasted peak color will occur between October 17th through October 24th.
Colors should be more vibrant compared to the past few years. This is because we are headed into a drier stretch of weather with some cooler nights allowing the chlorophyll in the leaves to break down better, allowing for better color before the leaves fall off the trees.
Why do the leaves on the trees change color?
That has to do with chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in leaves that helps trap the Sun’s light which the plant can turn into food during the growing season.
Once we start to transition from summer to fall, the trees stop their production of chlorophyll. As the sun angle lowers, not only do we get fewer hours of sun, but when it is out, it is significantly less potent than in the summer.
The trees start to become dormant and the chlorophyll in the leaves starts to break down. Without chlorophyll, the true color of the leaves comes out. That’s right, the color was always there but just hidden with the green.
Why are there different colors of leaves?
Different types of trees will have different colors because they are made up of different pigments or colors in each tree species. That is why some trees can be yellow, orange, purple, or red in color during the fall.
Weather can impact the foliage we see
The best seasons with lots of colors happen when we have a wet summer with a dry and cool fall. This year, we are headed into a drier and cool pattern right at the correct time to give us a more vibrant display. Frost can also ruin fall foliage. The water in the stems of the leaves expands as it freezes and will cause the leaves to die faster and drop to the ground faster.
If we have warmer weather, more clouds, and warm nights, then the colors will be more muted. If we have seasonable weather, more sunshine, and cool nights, then the colors will be more vibrant.
If we have drier weather then we typically see the color change to be delayed or not as vibrant. If we have more soggy conditions, we typically see the color change happen during the average peak and more vibrant colors.
Again, we are set up right now that we are coming off a more wet pattern, into a drier and more seasonable fall with cool nights. That means right now we should have vibrant fall foliage by mid-October. Make sure throughout the fall season to share your beautiful foliage photos with us here at WTAJ!