GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The science of fall color change is a complex one. The main cause of color change is the loss of daylight hours but meteorological conditions like temperatures and precipitation play a huge role in how vibrant the colors are and when they peak. 

In West Michigan, we experienced moderate to severe drought during the spring. Drought conditions during the growing season can sometimes cause leaves to change early or turn straight to brown, skipping the vibrant colors entirely. 

Weather conditions over the past few weeks and months appear to have slowed down the peak color.

Drier than average conditions can lead to muted and delayed color change. In contrast, wetter than average conditions lead to vibrant fall colors that change color at the typical time. 

Regarding temperatures, it’s the cold weather that helps brighten fall foliage. Seasonally cool days and chilly nights produce the best fall color display. Warmer than average temperatures during the day and night can cause more brown leaves than orange and red. 

The past few months in West Michigan have featured warmer than average and drier than average conditions. August, September and the first part of October were all warmer than average.

It has been a rainy start to October, but August was fairly dry and September was slightly drier than it typically is. This warm and dry pattern over the past few months suggests that our fall color display has slowed down and may not be quite as bright as normal this year. 

Regardless of how brilliant the colors turn out to be, fall is always a beautiful time of year in West Michigan.

Colors are peaking or just past peak for much of the Upper Peninsula. Across Northern Lower Michigan the peak colors are starting to migrate south. Central Michigan is breaking out with partial color to about M20 north. As you can see we have at least another couple weeks before really good color sprawls across Southern Lower Michigan.