GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Fall color has begun popping up across West Michigan. Vibrant yellows, oranges, and red have started lining the streets.

WHY DO LEAVES CHANGE?

Leaves are typically green due to chlorophyll, which allows them to absorb sunlight during photosynthesis. With a good deal of sunlight for much of the spring and summer months, the green color sticks around.

As days get shorter and less sunshine appears during the fall months, the leaves stop making chlorophyll. Without chlorophyll, the leaf begins to break down all the chlorophyll left. When it’s all gone, yellow and oranges begin to appear. These colors were always within the leaves, they were just hidden by the green.

WHAT TYPES OF CHEMICALS MAKE THE COLORS IN LEAVES?

Each color in leaves depends on a chemical or pigment:

  • Chlorophyll (green)
  • Xanthophyll (yellows)
  • Carotenoid (oranges)
  • Anthocyanin (reds)

HOW CAN WEATHER IMPACT FALL FOLIAGE?

Temperature is a huge factor in forecasting fall color. When there are warm, sunny days followed by cool nights — low temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees — fall color tends to be vibrant.

Moisture plays another role. Severe summer drought can oftentimes delay the onset of fall color. A wet growing season (spring) can lead to an early, shortened season.

Heavy rain and high winds can shorten the fall foliage season as well. This can cause trees to lose leaves before they are fully developed and colorful.

WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT IN WEST MICHIGAN?

Because West Michigan has been stuck in a windy and wet pattern for several days, some trees are losing their leaves already. Temperatures have also been on the cooler side with low temperatures in the low to mid-30s. This has the potential to shorten the season with less vibrant colors.

Typically, the second and third week of October is when Michigan’s color peaks. That will likely be the case this weekend. In fact, some areas in far northern Wisconsin and Michigan may already be past peak.

Fall foliage is expected from Oct. 14 to Oct.16.

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