As clouds make way for blue skies, sunshine and cooler temperatures, people look forward to an annual outdoor spectacular: the changing color of a myriad of leaves. Jack Hughes, weather observer from Chalk Hill in the mountains east of Uniontown, said this fall should be just as beautiful as those passed. He also debunked several myths about why leaves change color.
“With the leaves, a couple of things are taking place. The growing season has continued much like last year with rain and sunshine. The photosynthesis process that manufactures the chlorophyll so the leaves stay green and hold their position on the trees until autumn. “As temperatures cool and sunshine changes in the fall, the manufacture of chlorophyll starts to subside. That will take place pretty rapidly. “But this chlorophyll process is the interesting thing,” Hughes said. He explained the different colors that leaves show in fall are in them all year long. It's the chlorophyll that turns the leaves green.
“As the chlorophyll fades away it allows the reds, yellows and oranges to come through. The colors are there all spring and summer. But there is so much chlorophyll being manufactured that just overshadows everything,” he said.
As for this fall, Hughes said, “Mother Nature won't let us down. There will be wonderful colors. Some people think since we had a dry summer and all the sunshine, we won't have a nice fall. “They also think the first frost will start the colors. But that's not true. The first frost really doesn't have much to do with it. A real severe frost will accumulate on those leaves and the weight will snap them off and they fall to the ground. But a real heavy frost is not necessary to bring out the colors.”
Hughes said while the first frost usually occurs in the mountains, the lowlands should see it occur by early November. Meanwhile, the leaves will turn color as the season continues through October. “There are some nice pockets of color already beginning to show,” Hughes said.