Mother nature is beginning to put on her October show across the Tennessee Valley. The typical peak for fall colors around here is late October. This can change slightly from year to year depending on early season frosts and below normal rainfall. Thanks to some near normal rainfall the past two months we should see a pretty good display over the next two weeks before the incoming winter cold fronts blow the leaves from the trees.
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The main reason we see the colors change this time of year has to due with the fact we are losing sunlight. This is a critial part of photosynthesis. The colors begin to change first over the Northeast and Great Lakes. This is because that part of the country begins to lose daylight hours sooner and at a faster rate. Here is the equation for photosynthesis.
6CO2 + 6H2O + light → C6H12O6 + 6O2.
Photosysthesis requires carbon dioxide, water and sunlight and occurs mainly in the leaves. All of these substances must be obtained by or transported to the leaves. This process creates green chlorophyll. The loss of sunlight causes the plants to give up and go dormant. The leaves begin to change color and the trees begin to feed off the root system. In a drought the loss of water has the same affect. An early season frost or freeze will speed up the process.
For more information on how trees prepare for winter click on this link. http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/leaves.html