Fall foliage in New York State affected by warmer than average weather

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – With high temperatures in the 70s this week, it does not feel like what the fall season should feel like in the Twin Tiers. In more areas than usual, it has not been looking like fall either.

Researchers agree that fall foliage peaks in New York State may arrive later than normal thanks to the unusually warmer conditions. The leaves on the trees are staying green and, in some cases, falling off the branches before they fully change color.

Parks near Elmira are already showing the fall foliage delay, including Pirozzolo Park.

Not only is the warmth playing a role in this delay, but so is precipitation. This fall has been warmer and wetter than optimal, with Elmira reaching a record 79 degrees and a daily precipitation amount of 0.81 inches within the past couple weeks.

“Due to the warmer temperatures and longer and more cloudiness that we’re seeing, we’ll probably be looking at maybe about a one to ten day delay,” said Mark Wysocki, senior lecturer at Cornell University. “It’s almost getting to be two weeks now that we’re pushing back the fall foliage.”

Warmer nights are also problematic towards the timing of fall foliage. This makes it harder for chemicals within the leaves to break down and show the different fall colors.

“Cooler temperatures signal deciduous trees to stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for photosynthesis,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology at Penn State University. “The chlorophyll breaks down and disappears, unmasking other leaf pigments. These other pigments — called xanthophylls and carotenes — are what create the yellows and oranges seen in the leaves of yellow poplar, hickory, sycamore, honey locust, birch, beech and certain maples.”

Other regions in the United State affected by warmer weather include the Pacific Northwest, which saw extreme temperatures this summer lasting into the beginning of the fall season. The extreme heat caused the leaves to show brown colors much earlier than optimal.

If the current conditions keep up, the October weather may affect what will be seen in early to mid November.

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