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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

Driest summer since 1998 mutes autumn colors

Leaves will change earlier, could fall sooner

INDIANAPOLIS – This summer’s dry, hot weather may mean a shorter and earlier season for watching autumn leaves turn red, orange and yellow.\nLeaves typically begin developing fall colors near the beginning of October, but this year the change could come earlier.\n“We’re already starting to see the trees brown out; that’s because of the stress,” said Sam Carman, education director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry. “In dry conditions, the colors tend to be more vibrant, but they don’t last as long.”\nBetween April and mid-September, central Indiana recorded 14 inches of rain, more than 8 inches below typical amounts, according to the National Weather Service. That makes it the driest spring and summer since 1988.\nGreen chlorophyll that generates a tree’s food during the growing season typically masks the other colors in a tree’s leaves. But the chlorophyll fades and other colors emerge as temperatures drop and days grow shorter. Sugars generated by trees help produce the colors seen in the leaves, and if drought conditions cause a tree to store less, fall leaves may appear more muted.\n“We all think it’s not going to be as showy a fall color season because of the drought,” said Tom Thake, a forest ecologist for the Hoosier National Forest in Southern Indiana. “It’s still going to be gorgeous.”\nSugar maple leaves often turn brilliant red and orange, while tulip trees and redbuds turn yellow. Traffic already has started to increase in Brown County, a popular spot for leaf watchers.\n“October is the peak season, and years back it was the only season, but we see more traffic year-round,” said Jane Ellis, interim director of the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “People just make their fall vacation plans regardless.”

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