The Science Behind the Stunning Fall Foliage

Weather plays a primary role in how long and how vibrant the colors will be in a season

The changing of the leaves – It is the most symbolic sign of autumn.

Plants convert carbon dioxide and water into breathable oxygen in order to produce the foods they need to grow. This is a natural process known as photosynthesis. The green pigment in plants called chlorophyll is a key component in the process of photosynthesis.

As the days get shorter and cooler in autumn, the amount of chlorophyll produced begins to decrease. The existing chlorophyll is slowly broken down diminishing the green color. The other chemicals take over, the green color sheds and the leaves turn yellow, orange, red then brown.

Weather plays a primary role in how long and how vibrant the colors will be in a season. It can’t be too dry or too warm, otherwise the leaves could skip the most vibrant phase. It’s the Goldilocks principle! The weather has to be just right for an on time and vibrant season.

Though peak color has passed in the higher elevation, it will continue to spill across the Foothills and Piedmont. Dr. Neufeld, a Biology Professor at Appalachian State University, says from beginning to end we could have six to seven weeks of fall color which could be the longest fall color season probably anywhere in the world!