Drought could delay fall colors, early October expected to be peak

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

As the season begins to make its shift toward fall, southwest Colorado will be trading in its high temperatures and longer days for shorter days that are painted with lush landscapes full of colorful foliage.

For those with an eye for photography, or ones who can just appreciate a beautiful nature scene, peak times for Colorado fall colors are important to know.

According to the 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction map, the southwest portion of the state will see leaf colors approach “patchy” status around Sept. 14.

The northwest portion of the state, however, will see leaves reach near peak levels on Sept. 14, according to the map.

It will not be until around Oct. 5 that southwest Colorado will see fall colors at their peak; according to the map, this peak will only last until about Oct. 12.

How the leaves get their color

According to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (CESF), leaves take on their green color during the spring and summer seasons as the food-making process is taking place for trees and with chlorophyll being in the numerous cells of the leaf.

In the fall, with changes in daylight and temperature, leaves stop that food-making process, which leads to the chlorophyll breaking down and the green color’s eventually disappearing, according to the CESF.

Despite the fact that the green color has faded away, colors such as red, orange and yellow become visible due to the presence of compounds such as beta-carotene, anthocyanin and flavonols within the leaf, according to the CESF.

Drought delay

The U.S. Forest Service notes that a late spring or severe summer drought can affect the onset of fall color, specifically by delaying it by a few weeks.

This story was posted on September 11, 2020.