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Weather Blog: The science behind fall colors

As fall continues to move into the region, more leaves are going to change colors. But what's the science behind it? And how do the leaves pick the color that they are going to change to?

Posted: Oct 1, 2020 1:28 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — As fall continues to move into the region, more leaves are going to change colors.

But what's the science behind it? And how do the leaves pick the color that they are going to change to?

When the cooler temperatures arrive, it breaks down the chlorophyll in trees.

Sugars are then created during the warm, sunny days.

Some sugars are trapped in the leaf's stem and the branch during cool, but not freezing nights.

The sugars that do escape act like a kind of antifreeze that protects the tree during the winter.

That leaves behind other chemicals, which cause a leaf's color to change.

When chlorophyll is left behind, then leaves stay green.

If chlorophyll breaks down and xanthophyll is left behind, then the leaves will be yellow.

Leaves turn orange when carotene is left behind after the chlorophyll breaks down.

Red leaves occur when anthocyanin is left behind.

When anthocyanin and chlorophyll are both left behind, then the leaf turns brown.

Not all leaves change color though.

Needles on evergreen trees, like pine, spruce, and fir trees, have evolved over time to stay on those trees year-round.

Bright colors are more likely to happen when the end of the summer is dry and fall has sunny days and cool nights.

But a drought is one of the main factors that could cause a tree to go dormant for winter earlier than expected.

Which means the leaves would fall off sooner or be browner than usual.

While rainy and overcast days actually increase the intensity of fall colors.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 724214

Reported Deaths: 13363
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion989071736
Lake53172962
Allen40223675
Hamilton35354408
St. Joseph35270550
Elkhart28228437
Tippecanoe22297217
Vanderburgh22231396
Porter18560304
Johnson17832376
Hendricks17098313
Clark12897191
Madison12519339
Vigo12379244
Monroe11811168
LaPorte11691210
Delaware10571185
Howard9823215
Kosciusko9347117
Hancock8204139
Bartholomew8036155
Warrick7754155
Floyd7630176
Wayne7002198
Grant6986174
Boone6652101
Morgan6529139
Dubois6139117
Marshall5954111
Dearborn577177
Cass5769105
Henry5671102
Noble555783
Jackson499672
Shelby488196
Lawrence4470120
Gibson433791
Harrison432972
Clinton426353
DeKalb423284
Montgomery423088
Whitley392739
Huntington386380
Steuben381057
Miami379165
Knox370990
Jasper361347
Putnam357760
Wabash352478
Adams340354
Ripley338370
Jefferson328481
White312254
Daviess294399
Wells290281
Decatur282992
Fayette278362
Greene276085
Posey270733
Scott264453
LaGrange263870
Clay258945
Randolph239581
Washington239131
Spencer230431
Jennings228848
Starke213252
Fountain211846
Sullivan210442
Owen195856
Fulton194240
Jay190429
Carroll187820
Perry182537
Orange181854
Rush172625
Vermillion167643
Franklin167235
Tipton161945
Parke145416
Blackford134332
Pike132634
Pulaski115945
Newton106734
Brown101441
Crawford99014
Benton98114
Martin87415
Warren80515
Switzerland7808
Union70610
Ohio56211
Unassigned0413

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1077284

Reported Deaths: 19344
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1251861392
Cuyahoga1110942107
Hamilton796611200
Montgomery511561012
Summit46842933
Lucas41780782
Butler38228580
Stark32099907
Lorain24828480
Warren24214297
Mahoning21403586
Lake20518368
Clermont19704238
Delaware18463131
Licking16373210
Fairfield16083199
Trumbull15966466
Medina15192262
Greene14991244
Clark13927297
Wood13020188
Portage12772201
Allen11564231
Richland11277198
Miami10652215
Muskingum8783132
Wayne8738210
Columbiana8735229
Pickaway8527121
Marion8494135
Tuscarawas8459243
Erie7831154
Hancock6880126
Ross6821152
Ashtabula6756169
Geauga6659148
Scioto6385101
Belmont5828167
Union569347
Lawrence5536102
Jefferson5481151
Huron5409119
Darke5333122
Sandusky5316120
Seneca5248121
Athens518058
Washington5137109
Auglaize487084
Mercer479085
Shelby466893
Knox4472110
Madison434761
Putnam4260100
Ashland420989
Fulton419869
Defiance416597
Crawford3954106
Brown391857
Logan380676
Preble378298
Clinton369861
Ottawa365779
Highland352761
Williams337075
Champaign329258
Guernsey314453
Jackson311651
Perry294250
Morrow283639
Fayette280649
Hardin269864
Henry267766
Coshocton263858
Holmes2587101
Van Wert242463
Pike237233
Adams235852
Gallia235148
Wyandot230654
Hocking214662
Carroll190947
Paulding171140
Meigs144339
Noble133437
Monroe130642
Morgan108223
Harrison107337
Vinton82015
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Angola
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 50°
Huntington
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 51°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 55°
Shower and thunderstorm chances increase Thursday afternoon.
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